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P. B. CLAYTON, M.C., F.S.A. 


' Yborn it was in fer contree 
In Flandres, al biyonde the see 
At Popering, in the place." 

Chaucer's Sir Topas. 





•• * • •, 

All rights reserved 




I FIRMLY believe that the greatest secret of 
our success in the war was the spirit of help- 
fulness. With very few exceptions, I think, 
every Commander was anxious to help his 
subordinates, and without exception, every 
man helped his fellow-man. 

The opening of Talbot House, Poperinghe, 
was one of the best examples of helpfulness, 
for which many thousands have been and 
many hundreds are intensely grateful. 

This little book tells its own story. I can 
only say from experience that Welcome met 
me at the door. Happiness lived within, and 
the Peace that passeth understanding could 
be found by those who sought it in the Upper 




In writing some words of introduction to this 
little book I must point out how misleadingly 
Talbot House was named. I did nothing but 
get hold of the house, into which, as into a 
mud hole, I drove a perfectly round peg— viz., 
the author. I knew that if I could find a 
parlour he would prove the most Christian 
spider in all the world (though the metaphor 
is wrong, for the House was nothing if not a 
" liberty hall "). And so it proved. When 
we got the house we proposed to call it Church 
House. But the staff of our Division saw a 
scarecrow in the name and smelt tracts. So 
they changed it from Church to Talbot House. 
For the rest I might expatiate on Mr. Clayton, 
but he would prefer that I did not. It is un- 
necessary for me to commend him to those 
who know him, and to those who do not I 
think the following pages will themselves 



reflect something of the wit, the laughter, the 
friendship and the love which radiated from 
his great heart into the wilderness of war round 
Ypres and ** Pop." As I claim no credit for 
the House, and but gladly attribute it to one to 
whom, under God, it is due, I can say that I 
think Talbot House was the ideal Church Insti- 
tute. Though it was " dry," it suggests a future 
for Christian public-houses. It was open to all 
the world, was full of friendship, homey ness, 
fun, music, games, laughter, books, pictures 
and discussion. And at the top, in the loft, 
obtruding upon no one, but dominating every- 
thing, was the Chapel — a veritable shrine, glow- 
ing with the beauty of holiness. Thus above 
and below, the House was full of the glory of 
God. I predict that thousands will be glad of 
this little record as a souvenir of many happy 
hours, and that to not a few it will recall a 
turning-point in the history of their souls. 

Let us one and all think how the spirit of 
Talbot House and the things for which it 
stood may find expression in Blighty. 




Foreword v 

By the £arl of Cavan 

Introduction vii 

By Rev. N. S. Talbot, M.C, late Assistant Chaplain- 
General, 5th Army 


I. A First Glimpse 


II. Wendy's Crockford 




IV. House-hunting and House-warming 


V. Early Days 


VI. Growth in 1916 


VII. The Staff 


VIII. The Chapel 


IX. 1918 


X. The Innkeeper (by Captain L. F. Browne) 112 




I, Some Relics of the Notice-Board 126 

II. Some Corollaries by Talbotousians 140 
A. — Little Talbot House (Dr. Magrath) 142 

B. — Colonel Buchanan-Dunlop 145 

C— Major H. L. Higgon, M.C. 147 

D. — Major Brimley Bowes 150 

E. — Lieutenant Nicholson 152 

F. — Rifleman Donald Cox 156 

III. Talbot House for Trafalgar Square? 159 

IV. Some Conundrums from the Roll 166 


Talbot House Chapel, 1917 Frontispiece 

A sketch by K. Barfield 


The House in Rue de l'Hopital 17 

The Garden 35 

The Canadian Lounge 51 

The Menin Road 76 

The Invitation to the Children's Parties 87 

Poperinghe from 2,000 feet in May, 1918 106 

The Innkeeper 113 

Little Talbot House, Ypres 141 

Zillebeke during a Strafe 149 




Somewhere in Stevenson there stands the 
fine simile of a shipwrecked sailor, who, telling 
his tale far inland, hears again in his soul, as in 
a sea-shell, the confused tumult of the great 
waters ; whereat his narrative dies away into 
silence, for the very vividness of the echo 
deafens and defeats him. 

So, I suppose, it must be with most personal 
recollections of the war, and it is certainly 
true of the highly domestic chronicle I am 
now set down to write. Here is no conjuror 
with words, who can trick you into watching 
the brave gaiety of a Flanders town in war- 
time, or give you to breathe again the already 
twice breathed air of the scarred poplar avenue 
that leads to what once was Ypres. If this is 
what you seek, you will be well advised to lay 



this little book down at once ; for it contains 
merely the memoirs of a parson-publican, 
written as a peace offering for those who 
have visited his inn. If others there be who 
persevere, it will be those who cherish some 
letter of the million written therein, that told 
perhaps of a meeting with a friend, or of a 
Receiving of the Sacrament — which is the same 
thing in another sphere. Even within the 
Army at the close, the old house became 
rather a back number in the back area, and 
the Armistice generation had JNIeccas of its 
own. Yet their elder brothers cheered the 



1915- ? 

as they marched down the street, and Second 
Lieutenant T. Smithkinson- Browne in 1917 
would hark back half shyly to the haunts of 
Rifleman Tom Brown of 1916, with the loyalty 


of an old schoolboy revisiting those grey 
towers that nursed him in his teens. Divisions 
trekking northwards from the Somme were 
known to count proximity to Talbot House as 
some measure of compensation for a return to 
the Salient, for the boredom of the Somme 
wilderness was a more fearful thing than fear 
itself The Englishman, mainly town-bred, 
loves light, noise, warmth, overcrowding, and 
wall-paper, however faded. He is of Alexander 
Selkirk's opinion concerning solitude, and 
John the Baptist in person would not have 
attracted him to cross the Somme country out 
of curiosity, after he had had to do so once on 
business. Our wall-paperdom, therefore, was 
half the secret of the drawing power of the 
Talbot House. It was a house proper — not 
one large bare hall with a counter at one end 
and a curtain at the other, but a house, like 
home, with doors and windows and carpets 
and stairs and many small rooms, none of 
them locked ; so that you never knew whom or 
what you might find next. Obviously the 
place belonged to you in a home-like way, 
and relied on your being kind to it in return. 
There were pictures in frames, not patriotic 


prints either ; and vases full of cut flowers ; 
and easy chairs ; and open fireplaces, with a 
tabby cat to teach you how to see what you 
wanted most by blinking into the golden glow. 
Bother ! who was this coming in ? An officer 
of some sort I 1 thought a padre ran the 
show. What is this chap ? A Northumber- 
land Fusilier captain. Have we got to stand 
up ? No ! He says he's been sent round that 
floor by the padre to see if the nibs are up 
to scratch ! One fellow at the table says 
that's just what his is, and indents on the 
captain for a new one. Queer place this. 
Mem, Must be looked into more closely 
to-morrow night. Mem, Wash out that 
estaminet crawl. That captain with the nibs 
was a bit of a nib himself. Wish he was in 
our Batt. 



** Once upon a time," began Wendy. 

" That means it never," said Peter caustically. 

"Well," replied Wendy coldly, "to be 
exact " 

In December, 1915, the old Sixth Division, 
which had trekked up from Armenti^res in the 
end of May and had gone out to a so-called 
rest in November, came sadly to the conclusion 
that they were in for a winter round Ypres. 
The division, however, had a tradition that 
compelled them to make the best of a bad 
business, and faced the inevitable with that 
cheerful grousing over minor points which 
in their philosophy obscured the main misery 
of the outlook. 

While speaking in a black-edged tone, I 
had better introduce you to the Church of 
England chaplains of the Division at the 
time. Neville Talbot, the senior chaplain 
C. of E., who had taken over some months 
before, was then busy breaking up the con- 


centration camp of chaplains* which had 
been bequeathed to him, and in marrying off 
the eUgibles into various battalions of their 
brigade. The exception was H. R. Bates, 
who was retained at the old chaplains' head- 
quarters,! to continue his amazing pioneer 
work with Church Army Huts. Several of 
these he built near the camps, largely with his 
own hands ; while forms and tables, stoves 
and fuel, canteen stores and games, he juggled 
with to such purpose that it seemed as if two 
huts a mile apart shared without knowing it 
a tea-urn and a table on the same day and on 
the same side of it. 

Meanwhile, Jimmy Reid was adopted by 
the Queen's Westminsters, Hamer by the 
Durhams, Wheeler by the York and Lanes., 
and Kinloch-Jones by 71st I.B., while P. B. 
Clayton was foisted on to the Buffs and Bed- 
fords, the latter being then out of the line and 
at rest in Poperinghe. 

Even at this stage of the B.E.F., the attach- 

* The beloved Chaplain Doudney, of l6th Infantry 
Brigade, had been killed at Ypres, November 2, 1915. 
Rupert Inglis, who succeeded me in the same brigade, was 
killed on the Somme in September, 191 6. 

f Where our horses lived in the farm and we in the 
stable, to deceive the Boche. 


ment of chaplains to battalions was still a 
novelty. At first, all chaplains were attached 
to medical units only ; and those who reached 
the fighting line were truants from Field 
Ambulances. Even when there, their task 
was at the outset confounded with that of an 
undertaker, and the minister of life was chiefly 
called upon for burials. Meanwhile, in 
hospitals, his sole obligation beyond this 
function was the visiting of those on the daily 
D.I.* List. Gradually the outlook widened, 
an amelioration due in no small measure to the 
example and idealism of Bishop Gwynne, 
D.C.G. ; and the Brigade Chaplain made good. 
He became at least connected in men's minds 
with more cheerful rites, and a trench-going 
padre made a church-going battalion. What 
nobler definition of his place could there be 
than that enshrined in the code of the Senior 
Service — "the Chaplain . . . the friend and 
adviser of all on board." 

^ 5jp "p^ ^f^ ^ 

" Shall I fetch Crockford ?" said Peter with 
a yawn. 

" Rude boys go * ^.' " said Wendy. 

* Dangerously ill. 



PoPERiNGHE, SO the Only guide book that 
troubles itself with the little town tells us, 
contains some 11,000 inhabitants, and no 
features of interest for the visitor. The war 
modified the accuracy of both these statements. 
The population of the town and its immediate 
environs has risen at times to a quarter of a 
million, and has fallen to less than fifty. As for 
features of interest, the orderly room clerks 
could give the evidence of tens of thousands 
of passes to the contrary. The name of the 
town might as well have been printed in, for 
all the correction it was likely to require. 

The secret of this was that Poperinghe was 
without a rival locally. Alone free for years 
among Belgian towns, close enough to the 
line to be directly accessible to the principal 
sufferers, and not so near as to be positively 


ruinous, it became metropolitan not by merit 
but by the logic of locality. In migrant and 
mobile times, its narrow and uneven streets 
filled and foamed with a tide-race of trans- 
port. Year in, year out, by night and by 
day, the fighting troops, with all the blunter 
forces behind that impel and sustain their 
operations, set east and west, with that rhythm 
of fluctuation that stationary war induces. 
Until the great switch road was opened, and 
the railway track was doubled, every man and 
every mule (whether on four legs or closely 
packed in a blue tin) came up by one pair of 
rails or one narrow street. 

Moreover, before the camps were built, 
troops billeted in the town itself in huge 
number, prudently decreased as the thing 
called bombing grew in ease and frequency of 

Poperinghe itself consists of a Grande Place 
preternaturally broad, and five streets preter- 
naturally narrow. You could scarcely shout 
across the Square ; you might all but shake 
hands across the streets. The only road of 
any breadth — the Rue de Boeschepe — came to 
a dead end twenty yards from the Square. 


The most vital thoroughfare (as in the Gospels) 
was the narrowest ; and the lion in the way, 
by no means chained, was an amphibious 
civilian train that exhausted its steam by an 
incontinent use of its whistle. Under such 
provocation nearly every horse became a biped. 

We must not forget, in describing the 
amenities of the town, the system of half- 
sealed streams, which, having lost all sense of 
purpose or direction in the dark, devoted their 
powerful energies wholly to the cultus of fever 
germs and mosquitoes. Out of these pure 
sources was pumped the brown bath-water 
wherein we wallowed ; and several experts 
aver that the resultant fluid was drawn off 
into casks and sold as Belgian beer. Other 
authorities deny this insinuation hotly, on the 
ground that the beer was far the lighter of the 
two in texture ; in which case, the confusion 
must have arisen through a similarity in taste 

My only previous acquaintance with this 
metropolis had been unpropitious. I had 
arrived there one rainy autumn night, fresh 
from a hospital chaplaincy at Le Treport, and 
" never having witnessed any military operation 


more important than the reheving of the 
Guard at Whitehall." The dismal train had 
crawled cautiously into the much shelled 
station at 2 a.m., depositing me with a plethora 
of luggage at the R.T.O.'s office. Leaving my 
baggage there in a hideous heap, and disdain- 
ing offers of assistance, I had started to walk, as 
I thought, into Poperinghe with a hazy notion 
of finding some hotel. Outside, the night was 
inky overhead and the road deep in mire. 
Following the crowd of foot-passengers back 
from leave, I had turned in the wrong direction 
and stepped out along the famous pave cause- 
way* that leads to Vlamertinghe and Ypres. 
After half an hour's splashing, I began to think 
the town a myth, and upon confiding my 
doubts to two men in front was much humbled 
to discover (1) that I w^as walking away from 
Poperinghe, (2) that there were no hotels 
anywhere, (3) that I had better go back, and 
ask R.T.O. to take great care of me till called 
for. This I sadly did, and the R.T.O., a most 
kindly man (how is it that occasional 5*9's so 
stimulate the lacteal duct of human kindness ?), 

* This was before the grand old navvies of the 4th 
Labour Battalion rebuilt the road. 


telephoned to such good purpose that before 
daybreak some London Field Company folk 
arrived with a mess-cart and removed me^to 
the Chaplains' Camp. 

My chief memory of the R.T.O.'s office 
during the waiting was the odd sight of a 
boy with a military medal marched in as a 
prisoner under escort for return to England, 
having so falsified his age that he had enlisted 
at sixteen, and had been fighting for six 
months ; which misdemeanour, as the younger 
Mr. Pepys says, " was very strange." 

When I returned to Poperinghe, and joined 
the Bedfords, the town was in a typically 1915 
condition. There was a canteen in the Square, 
run by a splendid Wesleyan chaplain, but 
beyond this nothing but refugee shops, bright 
behind their rabbit- wire windows, with their 
eternal display of " real Ypres lace," untrust- 
worthy souvenirs, and still more untrustworthy 
wrist- watches. Of course there were estaminets 
everywhere, good, bad, and of all inter- 
mediate complexions. The " Fancies," a great 
divisional show, justly celebrated for Fred 
Chandler's tenor voice, Dick Home's "Ro- 
gerum" (a coon-song version of the Parable 


of Dives and Lazarus, with a magnificently 
onomatopoeic chorus, which lifted the Sixth 
Division along over many miles of mud), and 
two Belgian ladies known respectively as 
Lanoline and Vaseline,* who could neither 
sing nor dance, but at least added a touch 
of femininity, provided the sole real recreation 
for officers and men. They lent us their hall 
on Sunday nights, where, in front of a drop 
scene painfully reminiscent of the Canal bank 
in November, Neville preached the Gospel of 
Faith and Freedom. 

The town at the time was intermittently 
shelled, but "nothing to write home about." 
Some very heavy "stuff" had come in during 
the early summer, when the fashionable area 
of the town was in consequence continually 
changing. One large shell had utterly de- 
molished the original English Church house, 
near the Square, and a brace had landed in 
the orchard at the back of what was afterwards 
Talbot House. One of these immigrants had 
created a pond, in which its brother, a dud, 
was committed to rest in a frivolous funeral. 

* Subsequently there was added, I think, a third artiste, 
known as " Chlorine," and a fourth called " Glycerine." 


The wealthier civil population had moved into 
France, and the remainder, chiefly refugees, 
were busily engaged in amassing wealth under 
circumstances adverse to the prosperity of their 
insurance companies. One combined pastry- 
cook and brewery concern was said to have 
made £5,000 clear profit during four months. 

Two of the four chief restaurants were 
already in full swing, the best, cheapest, and 
oldest, being that in the Rue de Boeschepe.* 
Very much second came A La Grande Poupee, 
behind a shop in the Square, where the thirteen- 
year-old schoolgirl ''Ginger " had already estab- 
lished her fame. Any defects in the cuisine or 
in the quality of the champagne were more 
than compensated by the honour of being 
chosen as her partner in the exhibition dance 
which she gave with the utmost decorum as the 
evening drew on. Skindle's was not yet in 
being, so far as I can remember, nor the ill- 
fated Cyril's. 

It was an odd, but not an evil, atmosphere 
which prevailed in Pop. Every week some 
shells landed somewhere, and some lives were 

* The British Officers' Hostel, the proprietress being 
Madame Camille Laconte Devos. 


lost; but the spirit of lightheartedness was 
never quenched, nor was there, on the other 
side, any outbreak of vice behind the gaiety. 
In spite of the gigantic accumulation of 
troops, rape was almost unknown, and seduc- 
tion extremely rare — to the amazement, I 
believe, of the Belgian authorities. War was 
still a sporting event, and "living dangerously" 
was salutary, as Nietzsche taught. The ethics 
of home were not blurred by long absence, and 
the Russian " steamroller" was not yet ditched. 
No prospect pleased, but man was perfectly 



It was plain that it was up to the chaplains 
to open a place of their own, an institutional 
church, to provide happiness for the men, and 
also, if possible, a hostel for officers going on 
leave. This trouble, like all our troubles, was 
taken to Colonel, now General, R. S. May, 
then " Q " of the 6th Division. Aided whole- 
heartedly by him, we approached the Town 
Major, who introduced us to M. Coevoet 
Camerlynck, a wealthy brewer of the town, 
who in turn led us to his great empty mansion, 
the back part of which previously had been 
struck by a shrapnel shell from the Pilkem 
Ridge direction. We accepted this tenancy 
joyftiUy at a rent which was subsequently 
fixed at 150 francs a month, undertaking as 
the conditions of our lease (1) to make the 
house weather-proof, and (2) to remove from 

o a 



iter/'- ^ -^ 


the small front-room a large safe, which, 
on account of its immobility, had remained 
when all the other furniture had been taken 

Strong in the consciousness of the British 
Army at our backs, we made no bones about 
the conditions, but took over the house forth- 
with. Bowing the owner out, we started on 
our inspection of the premises. The large 
entrance hall was flanked on the left by a 
highly decorative drawing-room with a dingy 
dining-room beyond, and on the right by a 
small office, the staircase, and the kitchen. 
The conservatory beyond lay sideways along 
the whole breadth of the house at the back. 
It was in a bad plight, for the shrapnel had 
gashed its leaden roof and brought down the- 
plaster ceiling in a melancholy ruin upon its 
tiled floor. The plate-glass was broken in all 
the windows, and the rain came in freely both 
sideways and from above. However, it's an ill 
shell that blows no one any good, and this 
had blown us a house which would otherwise 
have been occupied as a billet. Upstairs, on 
the first floor, reached by an elegant painted 
staircase in white and gold, was the landing, 


four bedrooms, and a dressing-room; on the 
second floor, a large landing, one huge nursery, 
and three small bedrooms ; above this, reached 
by a difficult companion-ladder, a great hop- 
loft covering the whole area of the house. One 
corner of this attic and the bedroom below it 
had been knocked out by a shell. 

We then descended to consider our other 
liability. The safe was in the little fronL office, 
and presented the appearance of a large brown 
painted cupboard against the wall. Neville 
gave it a friendly push, with no result what- 
ever. My assistance made not the slightest 
difference. I stepped round the corner for 
the Bedfords. About sixteen of them came 
in an S.O.S. spirit. As many as could do so 
got near the safe and pushed perspiringly. 
The faintest sign of motion was now visible. 
Determined to see the matter through at once, 
lest it should breed in us some craven super- 
stition, we suborned certain transport folk to 
send round their heaviest waggon and a team 
of mules. Meanwhile we got ropes round the 
safe, and some logs, as for launching a lifeboat. 
With sixteen men on the rope the safe fell 
forward on the rollers with a crash comparable 


only with the coup de grace the AustraUan 
tunnellers gave to Hill 60. Crowds gathered 
in the narrow street, and the waggon and mules 
made heavy weather of backing into the 
entrance of the house. Meanwhile we piloted 
the safe into the hall. The mules were taken 
out and led away that they might not see 
what they were doomed to draw. The back 
of the waggon was let down, the stoutest 
planks were laid leading up to it, and the 
drag-ropes were handed freely to all passers- 
by. Vaguely it was felt by all who had no 
precise knowledge of the situation that a 
successful tug would in some way shorten 
the war, and the traffic, now completely 
blocked, added those homely criticisms for 
which the British driver is justly notable. 
Even the safe felt moved in its rocky heart, 
and, surrendering to the impulse of a hundred 
hands, found itself installed in the waggon. 
It was no time for hesitancy now. Pressing 
ten francs into the hands of the muleteers, we 
told them the desired destination and saw 
them and the safe no more. 

Next day, about December 10, a party of 
male housemaids from the Bedfords put the 


inner house in order, while the London R.E.'s 
repaired the outer wall and roof. 

In the garden we found a carpenter's bench, 
which was set aside at once as our altar for 
the worship of the Carpenter, and carried up 
to the first chapel, which was the big landing 
on the second floor. This was our altar 
always, whence tens of thousands have received 
the Sacrament, many making their first Com- 
munion, and not a few their last. 

A table-top was also forthcoming from the 
garden, apparently the floor-boards, in two 
sections, of a small tent. These on some 
solid legs with a wallpaper covering made 
our first piece of domestic furniture, and 
lasted all our time. Then Harold Bates 
arrived, and casting his business eye upon the 
premises, made a list of necessaries, and 
supplied them without more ado. We bor- 
rowed a small staff from the 17th Field 
Ambulance, and on December 15 the House 

^Esthetes of a later generation would 
have smiled superciliously at our primitive 
efforts at furniture and decoration, but they 
served their turn well, and it was not a 


time when much was expected. Tables and 
chairs and forms were readily if roughly made. 
Cups and saucers and a few household utensils 
could still be bought in Poperinghe in a half- 
ruined shop opposite, where a Belgian boy 
named Gerard and his mother and sister 
carried on their business, though the staircase 
and most of the first floor had succumbed to a 
shell. Climbing one day on to what was left 
of the second floor, I found and purchased 
for three francs a crucifix, the figure (as often 
locally) of white clay, with a hand splintered 
by a fragment of the shell. This went to the 
Chapel, and looks down in the post-card 
picture from the loft. 

On the following Sunday night we led the 
congregation from the " Fancies " round to 
the new House. Fortified by an " agape " of 
cocoa in four cracked cups, three basins, and 
some jam-tins, we toured the House, and the 
bold imagination of the conductor won sym- 
pathy and assistance beyond his expectations. 
It was a bad, wet night, and a quiet figure in a 
Burberry went unnoticed, until pressed to 
stay to supper. The Burberry removed. Major 
Edmond Street of the Sherwoods, a Loos 


D.S.O., and one of the most gallant Christian 
gentlemen a man could meet, began his friend- 
ship for the House, which continued until his 
death on the Somme. Colonel Buchanan- 
Dunlop of the Leicesters, who organised the 
carol-singing to the Boche on the first Christmas 
Day, and Major Philbey of the York and Lanes, 
were also great quiet helpers of the infant 
House ; but for the most part we had not many 
mighty nor many noble. It was on the simple 
loyalty of the ordinary officers and men alike 
that the House was proud to lean. 

Wait a moment. On that same Sunday 
night we petitioned the congregation for a 
piano, and as they passed out an unknown 
gunner major volunteered the remark : "Padre, 
if you want a piano, Lieutenant Robinson of the 
47th Battery has three at least. Try and 
scrounge one oiF him." Making a mental note, 
on pre-Pelmanistic principles, of name and 
number, I proceeded on the next day to attempt 
to get in touch through Signals. I also incited 
Kinloch- Jones, chaplain of the 71st Brigade, to 
try his luck as well, two wires being better than 
one ; with a result that on Tuesday night a reply 
came through to him saying, " Meet me at 


41st I.B.H.Q., 11.30 a.m., Wednesday." We 
had not dared to mention a piano in our wire, 
so that our victim was plainly unaware of the 
purpose of our approach. Now 41st I.B.H.Q. 
were on a part of the Canal Bank, outside our 
divisional area, and Kinloch was going up the 
line elsewhere that day. Armed, therefore, 
only with the wire to him, and omitting the 
pass then recently necessary, I went up alone 
to the Canal Bank next morning in search of 
one at least of the three pianos. At that time, 
be it understood, pianos were lightly come by, 
for Ypres was still standing, and the Ramparts 
rang with the internal discord of thirty or so 
played capriciously, each louder than the last, 
so that the request was not so preposterous as 
it would be now, when ownership is again a 
commercial conception. Reaching the Canal 
Bank I found the headquarters concerned, and 
made bold to enter the mess. Here at first I 
was made welcome, but on disclosing my 
business was met with a request for a pass. 
The fact, also, that I had no batman with me 
told against me, this being a double infringe- 
ment of orders, which were at that time in the 
rigidity of recency. Producing my pink wire, 


I handed it across thoughtlessly, forgetting it 
was addressed to Kinloch-Jones. The re- 
assurance which this flimsy credential should 
have brought was more than counterbalanced 
by my obvious confusion when addressed as 
" Mr. Kinloch-Jones." Moral weakling that 
I was, I felt this further explanation would 
undo me wholly. The total result was that 
when 1 suggested telephoning to the still 
absent Robinson, the Brigade Major signifi- 
cantly detailed a subaltern to look after me. 
Here again the atmosphere is lost to the Army 
of to-day ; but then spies were far from 
mythical. Of that era are the two stories, one 
of the soi-disant officer who always replied, 
when challenged, ** Major Black, 49th Battery." 
He was so important a person that, when 
finally caught, he was sent down to Corps 
Headquarters in a car. Secondly, there was 
the picturesque legend of the spy so well con- 
cealed in Ypres that he blew a bugle nightly 
with impunity as the head of the transport 
column reached Suicide Corner. As for the 
stationmaster of Poperinghe, was he not shot 
a hundred times ? Behold me, therefore, 
struggling in the Signals dug-out to get in 


touch with my errant and overdue assignee. 
Communication between an infantry brigade 
and a battery was always difficult, but at last 
we learned that Lieutenant Robinson had left 
an hour back to keep his appointment, but as 
there had been some shelling had probably 
walked by byways. In point of fact, he was 
at that very moment reaching the dead end of 
the Canal, whence he came down towards the 
rendezvous, bleating for a padre as he came. 
Now it happened that Jimmy Reid and his 
AVestminsters lay thereabouts. To him, there- 
fore, Robinson was led, Jimmy appearing (as 
he afterwards said) in no very Christian frame 
of mind after a punishing night up yonder, 
and saying beneath his breath : ** Bother, 
another funeral." Relieved humanely and 
professionally to find it was not so, he accom- 
panied Robinson on his search, and when I 
heard his voice, 1 leapt out only to be greeted 
by my proper name. At this point the 
subaltern, my guardian, intervened with, 
" Excuse me, not Clayton, but Kinloch-Jones, 
I think," whereat we left him thinking. To 
cut the story short, Robinson gave me not one 
piano, but two, and I handed one over to 


Bates for a hut at Peselhoek — the worst one, 
of course. The best was very good indeed, 
and even in its old age, after three years of 
constant strumming, retained its tone. More- 
over, it had learnt things. If you so much as 
sat down before it in 1918, it played " A little 
grey home in the West" without further 
action on your part. 

•jn«5 5X 



" Give me the luxuries of life, and I care 
not who has the necessities," was the motto of 
the young House. We had a piano, but no 
dishcloths, to the great scandal of a visiting 
A.D.M.S. But by degrees we accumulated 
even these. A lady bountiful in Scotland sent 
us crates of furniture without number, and 
provisions without price. It is hard to re- 
member the days when dainty food came 
pouring out from home. A lady in Bristol 
(with whose gardener I was fortunate enough to 
strike up a friendship in hospital) showered 
other good and useful things upon us. A 
third in Brighton, and a fourth at Teddington, 
found us in books and pictures. Curtains and 
tablecloths, pots and pans, even waste-paper 
baskets and clocks and flower-vases arrived in 
illogical sequence. On the first night (Decem- 
ber 15) I find by the visitors' book that one 


officer* going on leave, stayed with us and 
from then onwards the doors were open day 
and night. Men swarmed about the place 
from ten a.m. to eight p.m., and officers flowed 
in from seven p.m. till the leave trains 
came and went. From each officer we de- 
manded five francs for board and lodging, on 
the Robin Hood principle of taking from the 
rich to give to the poor. For this sum the 
officers secured on arrival from the leave train 
at one a.m. cocoa and Oliver biscuits, or before 
departure at five a.m. a cold meat breakfast. 
The bedrooms were communal, save for the 
dressing-room, which we turned ambitiously 
into the " General's bedroom," on account of 
a bed with real sheets. For the rest, stretcher 
beds and blankets provided more facilities for 
sleep than a leave-goer required, or than a 
returning officer expected. Those were the 
days of simplicity ; and I can see now officers 
waiting semi -somnolently in chairs until their 
luckier brethren got up for breakfast and the 
leave train, to play Box to their Cox, so that 
Rev. Mrs. Bouncer had a grateful though 

* Curiously enough a namesake — Lieutenant Clayton 
of the West Yorks, 


a sleepless task. The House was always what 
the Canadians called a *' soft drink " establish- 
ment, but no one resented this, lapping up tea 
or cocoa or Bovril with thanksgiving. True, 
they were mostly infantry officers, who had 
learned such thankfulness in a rough school. 
One noticed, moreover, the meticulous care 
with which the old officer looked after the 
needs of his servant and his horse before his 
own. At no period of the war, I suppose, 
were the officers of any army up to our standard 
early in '16, when the flower of our amateurs 
stood side by side with those regulars who had 
survived both the hazards of war and the 
temptations of tabs. The fact that the House 
was, financially considered, a gift from the 
officers to the men was characteristic of the 
unity of spirit which possessed them both. 

By a fortunate coincidence, no sooner was 
the House established than it became 
customary for one company of the Queen's 
Westminsters to be billeted in rotation next 
door. The alliance thus formed was never 
wholly lost. The class upon which that 
great regiment chiefly drew is that of the 
suburban type, partly public school and partly 


the bank clerk world ; and however great the 
alienation from the Church elsewhere, it was 
not so with these. Critics truly of the Donald 
Hankey school, philosophers who found 
churchmanship too shallow, and athletes who 
found it too deep, were plentiful among them ; 
but with a great number, startled by their 
terrible experiences out of a superficial apathy, 
religion, and especially sacramental religion, 
stood as a need confessed. There must have 
been quite 200 Communicants in the battalion 
at this time, and in the case of the 1st L.R.B.'s, 
who were in Poperinghe that Christmas, over 
500 made their Christmas Communion. The 
Westminsters really adopted the House as 
their own, producing debates and concerts 
with astounding facility. Their machine- 
gunners (who at that time were only specialists 
within the battalion) were the prime movers 
in the transformation of the big hop-loft into 
the Chapel, being quick to grasp its artistic 
possibilities. I can see them now fixing the 
great red hangings which the Bishop of 
Winchester had sent us from the old private 
Chapel at South wark. This accomplished, our 
altar was removed upwards, and around it 


gradually gathered many memorial gifts of 
exquisite taste, and many still more sacred 
associations. It was a signaller of the West- 
minsters, now an officer on the Army Staff, 
who first sketched the Chapel. This sketch 1 
sent home to my friend Mr. E. W. Charlton, 
R.E., who made from it the etching"^ that has 
often been produced without acknowledgment 
in illustrated papers under such absurd titles 
as " a Chapel in the front line trenches." 

On December 19, four days after the House 
was opened, the company of the Westminsters 
which had just gone up into the support at 
Potizje, having had their Christmas party, 
and crackers to boot, in Talbot House the 
day before, met a crisis characteristically. 
That night a gas attack and a heavy bombard- 
ment broke suddenly on our local lines. 
Things looked quite dirty, and a message got 
through to the company in support to hold 
not only their support line but the Potizje 
Road itself. For the latter task seven men 
were all that could be spared. Five of these 
crouched on the road itself, with one in the 

* Unfortunately, owing to its size, this cannot be 
reproduced here. 


ditch each side. Beyond their rifles they had 
one machine-gun, which they trained to sweep 
the road. They wore stuffy P.H. helmets 
with good cause, for that night the gas cloud 
travelled further back than Vlamertinghe. 
Here comes the inimitable Westminster touch. 
They wore on the top of their masks their 
paper caps out of the Christmas crackers, and 
one rifleman insisted on brandishing a toy 
water-pistol, which he was at pains to fill at an 
adjacent shell-hole. This I heard at 2 a.m. on 
the 23rd, when a company that had been 
badly cut up came down to rest next door, 
waking the sleeping street with their indomit- 
able *' Rogerum." 

I have not yet explained the House's 
name. It was Colonel May's doing entirely, 
and nothing delighted me more than to find 
that Neville also was a man under authority. 
We had, after many wild suggestions, 
agreed on some tame and non-committal title, 
and having contrived six feet of stretched 
canvas, were busy on the first letter of 
" Church House," when Colonel May arrived 
and announced that the House should be 
closed there and then if we did not call it 


Talbot House. Despite Neville's protests, the 
name was fixed forthwith. It had about it the 
homely flavour of a village inn, and for its 
deeper note there was the thought of the 
commemoration of Gilbert Talbot, whose 
grave in Sanctuary Wood held the body of 
one who would have been to English public 
life what Rupert Brooke began to be to 
English letters. 



During the spring and early summer of 1916 
the young House throve greatly. The old 
division at last went out, after keeping the 
flag flying in the salient for a whole year on 
end, and trained intensively for the Somme. 
Just before they w^ent, on April 19, the 
Bedfords had a company blown to bits on the 
northern sector, and K. S.L.I, had to re-estab- 
lish the so-called line. It was in the counter- 
attack that my old school - fellow, Alec 
Johnston, was killed, whose articles " from 
the front " in Punch helped thousands to laugh 
when else they would have cried. The night 
before he had come into Talbot House with a 
half humorous solemnity. 

That was always one of the strange realities 
of life at the House : you never knew whom 
you would see again, Harold Bates left the 
door one Sunday morning, and had his leg 
shattered when just across the Square. 


Ki.. ' 


WK' --^.ii^|fe,3^ 


^^^^H^H^^^^H^' ^ iU '3 L . Bl 





1 ■-■■-^.^^ -;-l t 

GROWTH IN 1916 35 

Major Street arrived to go on leave with ten 
inches off his walking-stick, and his two 
brother officers wounded by the same shell 
as they were walking down through Vlamer- 
tinghe. In the early summer, boastful of the 
beauty of the garden, we put up a notice 
saying: "Come into the garden and forget 
about the war," and almost the first accept- 
ance of the invitation was intimated by arrival 
of a 5*9 which blew sideways into the House, 
mortally wounding a Canadian who had come 
in with his brother to write a joint letter 
home. In point of fact, this was the only 
fatal casualty within the House. During the 
varying fortunes of the salient shells have 
crossed and recrossed the roof from three 
points of the compass at least. Bombs have 
landed in the garden, in the street, in the 
Magazin next door. One bright afternoon 
in the summer of 1917, when there were close 
on 700 men in the House and garden, a big 
naval shell blew the house next door into a 
cocked hat, but only sHghtly wounded one man 
on our veranda. I do not comment on this, 
but I have heard older soldiers than I ever 
want to be say what they thought about it. 


It is not to be supposed, however, that 
shelling was a daily affair. Until the Somme 
battle began the town got something once a 
week on an average. During the " third battle 
of Ypres " it was bad enough to be closed to 
troops for four days. During 1917 the pressure 
on it was greatly relieved. Of more recent 
days I may speak later. 

But so far as possible, the House took no 
interest in the war. On its walls were great 
maps, not of the front, but of England, 
Canada, and Australia. On the great map of 
England, London and Liverpool are worn 
away by much digital discovery, and a scientific 
spy could tell the territorial locality of the 
successive divisions by the superimposition 
of the finger-prints. In all things so far as 
possible the House maintained a civilian 
standpoint, not out of any disloyalty to the 
Cause, or to the distinguished soldiers who 
made the House possible, but because its 
whole ?aison d'etre was always to be an 
Emmaus Inn, a home from home where 
friendships could be consecrated, and sad hearts 
renewed and cheered, a place of light and joy 
and brotherhood and peace. The discipline of 


the House was therefore not enforced by 
Army orders, but by light-hearted little 
notions, that arrested the reader's attention 
and won his willingness on the right side, e.g. : 





The waste-paper baskets are purely ornamental. 

" By Order." 

'^ This is a library, not a dormitory." 

"No AMY ROBSART stunts down these stairs." 


or by use of the old advertising dodge of 
mis-spelling : 

" Down these stairs in Signal phial." 

"No swaring aloud hear." 

or to keep the billiard cloth from being cut 
more than essential to enjoyment : 

" The good player chalks his cue before he plays ; 
The bad player afterwards." 


Over the door of the chaplain's room was 
a legend, invented by a beloved physician who 
for more than a year was treasurer of the 
House. This scroll ran : " All Rank aban- 
don Ye Who enter Here." Under its 
aegis unusual meetings lost their awkwardness. 
I remember, for instance, one afternoon on 
which the tea-party (there generally was one) 
comprised a General, a staff captain, a second 
lieutenant, and a Canadian private. After 
all, why not ? They had all knelt together 
that morning in the Presence. " Not here, 
lad, not here," whispered a great G.O.C. at 
Aldershot to a man who stood aside to let 
him go first to the Communion rails ; and to 
lose that spirit would not have helped to win 
the war, but would make it less worth winning. 
There was, moreover, always a percentage of 
temporary officers who had friends not com- 
missioned whom they longed to meet. The 
padre's meretricious pips seemed in such cases 
to provide an excellent chaperonage. Yet 
further, who knows what may not be behind 
the private's uniform ? I mind me of another 
afternoon when a St. John's undergraduate, for 
duration a wireless operator with artillery, sat 


chatting away. A knock, and the door opened 
timidly to admit a middle-aged R.F.A. driver, 
who looked chiefly like one in search of a five- 
franc loan. I asked (I hope courteously) what 
he wanted, whereupon he replied : '' I could 
only find a small Cambridge manual on palaeo- 
lithic man in the library. Have you anything 
less elementary ?" I glanced sideways at the 
wireless boy and saw that my astonishment was 
nothing to his. "Excuse me, sir," he broke 
in, addressing the driver, " but surely I used 

to come to your lectures at College." 

" Possibly," replied the driver, " but mules 
are my speciality now." 

This play-acting was of course to be expected 
when the H.A.C. and the Artists were in the 
neighbourhood, but there is scarcely a unit 
that has not cases of it to smile at. A battery 
was sent to the House one day to borrow 
some prayer-books of sorts. I asked whether 
they wanted to borrow a padre of sorts as 
"well. A chit from the adjutant came back: 
"No, thanks all the same. The Rev. and 

Hon. Bombardier L always takes our 

services for us." As this is not yet another 
book on Christianity in the Army, the com- 


batant priesthood cannot be here discussed, 
beyond stating (1) that the soldiers' sentiment 
seems strongly against it — e.g,^ a debate in 
which only two padres and two men voted for 
it, and 200 against it. This may be mere 
sentiment, but it is true. (2) None the less, 
a combatant diaconate conferred on active 
service would be, in the writer's belief, a really 
prized position, and one invaluable as an 
adjunct to the work of the brigade padre. 
But the Church will never experiment until 
its heart is set at liberty. 

In point of mere financial standing, the 
number of men in the ranks who own cheque- 
books that do not run dry as quickly as Cox's 
is a continual source of amusement. Talbot 
House has, for instance, received quite £50 in 
donations from one R.A.M.C. sergeant; and 
another who took a leading part in our debates 
took a triple first at Oxford in his time. 

This mention of debates leads on to a word 
or two about those that used to be held at 
Talbot House, and, knowing as I do the 
suspicion with which they are regarded in 
some quarters, I affirm the more gladly that 
if rightly shepherded, they are far from being 


subversive of discipline. The Englishman at 
least is innately conservative, and the acme of 
progress in his thought is the steam-roller 
which has slowly reached the further edge of 
a new layer of flints on a road, and then 
proceeds majestically backwards. Given a 
couple of men with a red and green flag, and 
a horse that has to be led past on its hind -legs, 
and his vision of Reconstruction is complete. 
Extremists of course there are, but the very 
fact of freedom of speech robs them of the 
atmosphere of martyrdom which they love to 
breathe ; and the playful badinage with which 
the robust common sense of the majority 
meets their propositions tends to tarnish their 
denunciations. After much experience, I am 
profoundly convinced that if put in possession 
of the real facts, a British jury more nearly 
approaches infallibility than any College of 
Cardinals. The only trouble is that their 
standard of general education is so low. Put 
the product of the old elementary school side 
by side with the men from overseas, and his 
mental equipment is pitiful. He is perhaps 
most conscious of this himself, and a sense of 
ignorance is far more widespread than a sense 


of sin. The overseas man with his freedom 
from tradition, his wide outlook on Hfe, his 
intolerance of vested interests, and his contempt 
for distinction based on birth rather than 
worth, has stirred in the minds of many a 
comparison between the son of the bondwoman 
and the son of the free. 

But the sense of justice is deep-rooted in 
them both, and hardships only deepen the 
comradeship between those who are mutually 
affected by them. In really grim situations, if 
shared in common, it is part of their code to 
grouse only about the trivial inconveniences, 
and to remain dumb as to the horrors. But 
glaring inequalities of distribution, whether of 
safety, leave, or pay out here, or of wealth in 
secular or ecclesiastical life at home, provoke 
them to a sustained indignation ; and the fact 
that within its own household the Church fails 
in equity as conspicuously as the State is a 
running sore to the consciences not only of 
many keen Churchmen, but also of many 
bystanders as well. The Englishman with 
a grievance makes a volcano out of a molehill. 

Debates had rigidly to eschew all Army 
topics— except that there was always a hardy 


annual on the progress of the war. The voting 
on this was generally more instructive than the 
speeches, so I tabulate the results as follows : 

January, 1916. That this House is decidedly convinced that 
the war will be over this year. Carried by 
150 to 8. 

„ 1917. That this House is firmly convinced that 
the war will be over this year. Carried by 
200 to 15. 

„ 191 8. That this House is profoundly convinced* 
that the war will be over this year. 
80 to 80. Carried by casting vote. 

which record provides the philosopher with 
one more instance of the futility of prophecy, 
though it must be remembered that the voting 
was more an indication of morale than of 
reasoning faculties. In 1916, all the speaking 
practically was against the motion. It was 
listened to with amused toleration, but when 
it came to voting, the silent optimists stam- 
peded the House. 

* Compare Mr. Ronald Knox's mot concerning the 
current ecclesiastical synonyms for " I think " — (1) The 
Curate, "Men, I kiwTv." (2) The Bishop, "Weareprofoundly 
convinced.^' (3) The poor old Vicar, *' One does feel somehow, 
doesn't one ?" 


More serious debates were concerned with 
the Economic Position of Women, whereat 
there was no trace of sex hostility, the 
NationaUsation of Railways, the Drink Prob- 
lem, the Ethics of ** Scrounging,"* Ireland, 
Federation, etc. A debate most interesting, 
both in its matter and its spirit, was on the 
Colour Problem in the Empire, at which two 
British West Indian sergeants made excellent 
speeches in English to an audience largely 
composed of Ausies and Canadians. Beyond 
the formal debates, the House ran in 1916 and 
1917 a series of lectures on Town Planning, 
the Housing Problem, Back to the Land, etc., 
when officers with professional knowledge of 
the questions received the keenest and closest 
appreciation. Such enterprises, again, have 
their pitfalls, and I remember my qualms at 
one of these meetings when a man I knew to 
be bitter got up in question-time. He said, 
however: "I like the Army even less than 
most of you here " (awkward pause), " but I 
can't go away to-night without telling the 

* A word of unknown origin, commonly in use among 
regular divisions, for which Territorials employ *' winning " 
or " making " as a synonym. 


officer that it has made all the difference in 
my outlook from henceforth to see he is ready 
to come here at the end of his day's work and 
put in an hour or so helping us to under- 
stand rightly things we have so much at 
heart." ,:'oi 

This, by the grace of God, is an earnest of 
the spirit of unity that the Army is bringing 
home with them, and I was not less delighted 
to find the obverse of it in a Hampshire village 
I know well, where dwells in his old age a 
staff colonel of the old school. He had, last 
time I saw him, been reading Gerard's great 
book on Germany. This had been subsequently 
lent to the blacksmith, who, while politically 
pestilent in the colonel's eyes, has redeeming 
features as a village cricketer. The upshot 
of the loan was not one but a series of con- 
fabulations, which resulted in the verdict: 
*'A damned socialist he is, padre, but upon 
my word there's sense in some things he says." 

So the great need of England — a unifying 
principle based on a mutual appreciation — is 
less far from attainment than it was before 
the war. 




The heading of this chapter sounds an 
ominous one ; but the word is here used in its 
civiHan, not its military, significance, and my 
purpose is to give a ghmpse of the various 
crews and complements who signed on and 
off the House. Only one besides myself has 
been with the House from the beginning, and 
I reserve what I dare say of him to the end 
of this chapter. 

At first the House was excellently staffed 
by an N.C.O. and four men of 17th Field 
Ambulance, but after four months these were 
withdrawn to their units and replaced by 
Guardsmen under Sergeant Godley of the 
Coldstreamers. Some humourist on G.H.Q. 
had arranged at the time — April, 1916 — that 
the Guards and the Canadians should occupy 
the town together, and the result was as instruc- 


tive as it was amusing. In the Guards' area, to 
a civilian encountering them for the first time, 
the first feeUng was one of dismay. N.C.O.'s 
and privates were unable to share the same 
rooms, and when one returned from shopping 
in their quarter of the town, the problem of 
returning salutes while leading home a primus 
stove, however lawfully purchased, was harass- 
ing to the last degree. Ultimately I became 
so nervous of these ordeals that I walked only 
by night in the Guards' area, and then said 
"Friend" hurriedly in the dark to the buttresses 
of the church. In the Canadian area there was 
no such shyness, though in their later days 
saluting became, I believe, quite in vogue with 
them as well. It was a liberal education as 
well as a privilege to walk the Rue de Boeschepe 
in company with Canon Scott, though his 
extraordinary popularity made progress slow. 
"Well, I'll be damned! it's Scott," an old 
friend greeted him with. " Sure, and I hope 
you'll be no such thing, Jim. I don't know 
what the Government pays me this enormous 
salary for if you are," replied the canon. One 
April day a popular Canadian major burst in 
upon " a bunch of boys " in their billet with : 


" Boys ! get a move on ; the Guards are 
drilling in the Square. It's a sight worth 
coming over the water to see." A few minutes 
later, in the midst of a happy crowd smoking 
and laughing, he stood and pointed out the 
most salient features of that majestic spectacle. 
I can yet see that hving study in contrasts, and 
thank God that the Empire is wide enough to 
hold them both together. Yet the Guards 
were not only admirable — they were actually 
lovable. In no division that ever came our 
way was there so strong a family feeling. 
There was rivalry, but it was a rivalry towards 
a common ideal. There was hard and minute 
discipline, but the task was hard before them. 
The officers would do anything for their men, 
and the adjutant knew them and their home 
circumstances sometimes to the third genera- 
tion. Even the R.S.M. would unbend enough 
to ask of a man returning from leave when Jim 
would be ripe for Caterham, and how the old 
man was doing. Of surviving Guardees who 
were true Talbotousians I cannot speak freely, 
but one of our best friends was Lieutenant 
Guy Dawkins, of 2nd Scots Guards, who had 
taken his commission thither from the London 


Scottish. A critic of men better qualified 
would have been hard to find, for his reputa- 
tion stood high before the war in the L.A.C., 
and he was so deeply possessed by the fighting 
spirit that he died more of disappointment 
than of his wound early in the Somme offensive. 
It was he who discovered to me the fact so 
hard for the civilian mind to grasp — that in 
the very fixity of the gulf between each grade 
of command lay the scope for an intimacy and 
mutual understanding impossible otherwise. 
Elsewhere the younger officer might feel that 
too much solicitude for his men might preju- 
dice his caste ; but here, where he was 
almost of another clay, he could, and indeed 
must, take their comfort and welfare as his 
supreme concern. 

Of the many conquests of the Guards in 
this war, none was more complete than that 
of Talbot House. We dreaded their arrival, 
but longed for their return. The House was 
never so musical as when Quarter- Master- 
Sergeant Reynolds brought in his glee-party 
of Welsh Guards, so numerous that there was 
scarcely room for the audience ; nor, in domestic 
matters, were the floors ever so spotless, the 



lamps so well trimmed, or the garden so neat, 
as under the regime of Sergeant Godley. 

A few weeks before the Somme began, it 
became clear that the House could no longer 
stand the strain of its double obligation both 
to officers and men ; so we bombed the officers 
out, and, with the modesty characteristic of 
padres, took over for the exiles the premises 
of " A " Mess of the Guards' Division in a 
house hard by. Here and thus the Officers' 
Club, Poperinghe, began under the control 
of Neville Talbot. Subsequently, to meet the 
manifold problems of catering, etc., in view of 
the tremendous concentration in 1917, it was 
handed over to E.F.C., who maintained it until 
the evacuation in the spring of the following 

Scarcely was this new House opened than 
the Somme swept Guards and Canadians alike 
southwards, and the salient became for the first 
time in its history a quiet spot for weakened 
divisions to maintain. Hitherto the average 
number of daily casualties passing through the 
Casualty Clearing Stations in the district had 
been seldom less than 200. From that time 
till the following February even Ypres was a 


place comparatively well suited for open-air 

The Somme brought us an unexpected 
blessing in the persons of two old Q.W.R. 
friends, who, after their contribution to the 
regiment's costly participation down south, 
came up to recuperate in what was then known 
as an entrenching battalion. By the courtesy 
of the CO., the House was allowed to attach 
them to its staff until they were fit to rejoin 
the regiment — they are both now commissioned. 
Needless to say, their presence cemented the 
old associations and reintroduced the original 
atmosphere. The library grew prodigiously, 
so that the catalogue was always inferior to 
the reality. Debates, whist-drives, classes, and 
the standard of musical taste, leapt up as if by 
magic. This was our happiest winter, for the 
divisions in occupation at the time included 
38th, 39th, 47th, and 55th, and among them 
many enduring and undeviating friendships 
were discovered. 

With the coming of the spring, 1917, the 
preparations for the Messines offensive brought 
the House new friends as well as old. The 
23rd Division, which subsequently went to 


Italy, counted its Talbotousians by hundreds ; 
and in the ominous interval prolonged past 
all endurance, while the Fifth Army and the 
French came up for July 31, and everyone 
said " Hush " at the tops of their voices, the 
House reached the zenith of its activity. In 
a single day 500 francs was taken in Id. cups 
of tea alone. Meanwhile the 8th Corps had 
built us a concert-hall, ingeniously contrived 
out of an adjoining hop-store. The lawns of 
the delightful garden were brown with men 
basking like lizards in the sun ; the staff of the 
House was augmented to seventeen — its 
maximum strength. The 18th Corps appointed 
a committee of management, which did yeoman 
service, under Major Bowes of the Cambridge- 
shires ; and the 19th Corps headed our sub- 
scription lists with 1,000 francs. The House 
was repapered at least twice a week, and 
repainted on alternate Tuesdays. A test tally 
of ten minutes' duration at the front door 
revealed the entry of 117 men; and thus we 
lived through the summer, during which so 
many of our best friends died, and came 
with set teeth to that unforgettable autumn 
when division after division went forward 


almost to drown, that those eternal slopes 
might at last be won, which, had the weather 
held, might have been ours in the first week of 
August. With the late autumn there came 
upon the spirit of the men a darkness hitherto 
unknown, and the winter did not dispel it. 
The Italian disaster, though spoken of with a 
bluiF humour which I cannot quote, had its 
commensurate effect ; only the fact that the 
desperate fighting of the spring was directed, 
for the most part, against ourselves saved us. 
Had the German really understood our 
psychology, he would have then struck at the 
French. Further inaction would have shaken 
us more than anything else. If anything 
would have unmanned us utterly it would 
have been the spectacle of a French debacle. 
As it was, we had no time to think ; and it is 
thought which unnerves the British, as it 
inspires the French. 

This chapter began as a history of the staff 
of the House, but seems even more unfaithful 
to its title than the rest. It had therefore 
best be brought to a close with some account 
of the one permanent member of the staff 
besides myself. This can be done the more 


readily in that he is not one much given to 
literary tastes, and I can thus sing his praises 
more freely than I should else dare to do. 
Permit me, therefore, to introduce you to a 
real old soldier — " the General," as he was 
universally knov^^n to three generations of 
Talbot House clientele, and to all the children 
of the neighbourhood. On and off the Army 
has known him for thirty-one years as No. 239, 
Pte. Pettifer, A., 1st The Buffs ; and though 
now attached on grounds of debility to what 
is vulgarly known as an Area Enjoyment 
Company, the peak of his cap retains the 
dragon that no right-thinking man would 
desire to see replaced. He has refused to put 
up his proper array of good-conduct badges, 
as they would interfere with the set of his 
sleeve over his elbow. For chest protection 
he wears a Military Medal, an Indian Frontier 
ribbon, the South African, and the so-called 
Mons. He is sagacious past belief in the ways 
and byways of the Army, which he entered as 
a band-boy in the year of my birth. A certain 
faded photograph of a cherub incredibly pipe- 
clayed, and of a betrousered young warrior 
with an oiled forelock emerging beneath a 


hat like an inverted Panatella box, repose 
in his wallet, and may be seen by diplomatic 
approach on the general subject of Brodrick 
caps. Long ago he might have put up 
sergeant's stripes ; yea, and have been by 
now Q.M.S., or even R.S.M. ; but he would 
not. Uneasy lies the arm that wears a 
crown, and to be " the General " is honour 
enough in his honest old eyes. There is, 
indeed, a matter touching his proficiency 
pay concerning which he does not rest 
content. The correspondence whereby it is 
finally to be exacted, as it has long ago been 
deserved, now travels to and fro by parcel- 
post, and at the time of writing* lies heavy on 
the conscience (let us hope) of the instructor 
in musketry at the depot, whose apostolic 
predecessor should long ago have testified to 
Pettifer's proficiency with a Lee-Enfield. 

In the intervals of civilianism which he has 
experienced "the General" has adopted a 
mode of life as modest as any affected by the 
great staff officers of la Grande Armee. One 
is given to understand that, if country-bred, 

* This part of the narrative was written in May, 1918. 
Hence various painful inconsistences in these fitful pages. 


they have the habits of Cincinnatus ; if 
town-dwellers, they have a penchant for the 
trade of tobacconist. Pettifer, for his part, 
lives in South Hackney, and drives a capacious 
cart. Trust an old infantryman to find some- 
thing in peace-time which keeps his feet off 
the ground ! I wonder whether the demobili- 
sation authorities realise this deep-rooted 
desire for an antithesis, illustrated in the 
other sphere by the story of the Navy man who 
proposes to march inland carrying an oar until 
he reaches a spot where he is challenged with : 
*' What in hell is that thing on your shoulder ?" 
Then, he says, he will plant the oar, and settle 
down for life. 

Pettifer 's only walks abroad are with " the 
Nibs " — young Arthur in particular — on 
Sundays, when Hackney is left far behind. 
Times are when Arthur is weary, whereupon 
the following dialogue has been known to 
ensue : 

P. " 'R'you tired, Art ?" 

A. " No, daddy, not tired ; but, daddy, do 
carry me." 

This anecdote, forthcoming at the end of a 
long and rather rough journey near Ypres, 


breathes a philosophy of rehgion identical with 
Herbert's : 

" If goodness lead them not then weariness 
Will toss them to my breast." 

One might suppose that so old a soldier 
could have no illusions left. But if, as some 
would have us think, faith in human nature is 
so to be classified, then is "the General" the 
most offending soul alive. To him all men are 
as incapable of sustained deceit as he is himself. 
I have known him, however, wildly deceitful 
for a whole half day on end — i.e., the morning 
of April I, when it is prudent to avoid him. 
One day in Hackney he took a stranger home 
to share — or rather not to share — his dinner. 
After which, the problem arose as to the 
means whereby their guest might best return 
to South Australia, whence he had mysteriously 
been spirited to South Hackney. Seeing 
perhaps incredulity in the face of Mrs. P., 
"the General" proceeded to lend his guest 
five shillings towards the inestimable expenses 
of the voyage ; and further recommended, with 
much sagacity, a visit to the neighbouring 
Home and Colonial Stores, who were persons, 


from their very title, obviously capable of 
advising upon so Imperial a matter. "And 
d'you know, sir," said Pettifer, when we had 
reached this point, "I'm sure that young 
fellow sailed on one of them ships that was 
never heard of again ? I giv 'im my address, 
and everything, but I never once had a line 
from 'im from that day to this. An' the missus 
didn't 'arf strafe, neither !" When this par- 
ticular war broke out, Pettifer got down from 
his cart, left the missus with one less dinner 
to see to, and the nibs without their Sunday 
escort, and rejoined the Buffs. In November 
they arrived in France, and wintered in the 
bracing locality of " Armonteeres," coming to 
the salient in May, 1915. A year after his 
landing he was told to report as batman to a 
new and unknown chaplain ; but even this was 
better than the listening-post job that he had 
" clicked for " (and volunteered for) again and 
again. Nothing had really impressed him during 
the first year, except the occasion when he had 
halted and refused passage to his brigadier. 
What that distinguished officer said, what the 
sergeant said, and what the sentry trium- 
phantly replied, must be lost like the grouse 


in the gun-room. But by November, 1915, 
there were only some twenty-eight of the 
Buffs still with the regiment. A big new 
draft, five hundred strong, had reached them, 
selected, so the story ran, by the following 
process. Some nine hundred would-be Hussars 
were paraded somewhere at home; and the 
following commands were given : 

" Roman Catholics, one pace to your front." 

" Church of England, stand fast." 

" Other religions, one pace to the rear." 

The Roman Catholics were drafted into 
some Irish regiment, the Non- Conformists 
into a Welsh formation, and the five hundred 
who stood fast found themselves in the Buffs. 
I cannot say that the ecclesiastical gain was 
such as to recommend the revival of the Test 
Acts. There is a story of a certain inebriate, 
who, upon being thus reproached ; " I thought 
you were now a teetotaler," replied : " So I 
am, ma'am, but not staunch." Though the 
gallant five hundred stood fast for their faith 
on that question, they evinced no remarkable 
churchmanship on their arrival. But they 
were staunch enough in face of Fritz. It was 


one of their lieutenants, I think, who retailed 
conversation overheard on a very bad black 

evening ; " Well, if we're winning this 

war, God 'elp the losers." 

Pettifer, having at the first interview charac- 
teristically announced his inability to meet any 
domestic requirements, soon developed unique 
capacities in that direction. Shortly after we 
fetched up at Talbot House, his powers of 
acquisition made themselves only too visibly 
felt. Like Horace in the " Brass Bottle," I 
became afraid to mention a need lest its fulfil- 
ment should bring disaster and disgrace. I 
was, for instance, overheard to say that a 
carpet for the Chapel was most desirable. 
Within an hour the carpet had arrived. 
Enquiry revealed the painful fact that it had 
come from next door. " They won't be 
wanting it, sir ; they do say the family are in 
the sou' of France." It is incumbent upon the 
clergy to take their stand at such moments 
upon bed-rock principle. " General, I can't 
say my prayers kneeling on a stolen carpet." 
Silence hereafter for a space: then a bright 
idea. " Well, sir, if yer won't 'ave it in the 
church, it'll do lovely for yer sitting-room." 


When even this brilliant alternative is dismissed 
as Jesuitical, and the carpet restored to the place 
it came from, a few days elapse tranquilly. Then 
" the General " scores heavily one morning: 
" Yer remember that carpet, sir ?" I admit it. 
'* Well, the A.S.C. 'ave scrounged it now." 

But God forbid that " the General " should 
be thought anti-social or unneighbourly. 
Nothing could be further from the truth. 
This jackdaw trait is only in relation to things 
lying useless and idle, which none will miss ; 
and it is more than outweighed by a willing- 
ness to give of his own cheerfully, whether or 
not it can easily be spared. He is withal the 
most adaptable of companions, and will find, 
in the most unlikely places, neighbours from 
Hackney who deal with the very same trades- 
men. Failing this, he will inaugurate a dis- 
cussion on that unfailing " Ruy Lopez " of the 
Contemptibles' conversation — what is the oldest 
regiment in the Army ? He is never at a loss 
in any British atmosphere, and in an incredibly 
short space of time will effectively " smarten 
up the parade." In foreign society he is 
equally at his ease, largely because he has 
eschewed all attempts at their methods of 


speech, and continues, like so many of the best 
EngHshmen, to regard their inabiUty to under- 
stand him as a species of chronic deafness, to 
be overcome by slower articulation, sedulous 
repetition, and a raising of the voice in utterance. 
It is certainly amazing what excellent results 
may be thus obtained. There is, moreover, 
not a child in Poperinghe whose face does not 
light up at his approach. It is they who have 
conferred upon him the title of " le General,' 
by which he is greeted in every narrow street. 
And to many of the old folk as well he has 
been a benefactor in dark days ; wheeling their 
'* sticks " away to safety, or greatly concerned 
for the still more difficult removal of the bed- 
ridden. Fancy bed-ridden old in such a town 
as this has been ! 

On March 23, 1918, just after midnight, a 
great crash woke me. Before we had turned 
in several heavy shells had landed somewhere 
in the town, but none really near the House. 
This one was, however, obviously fairly close, 
and I lay unpleasantly half awake, waiting for 
the next one to decide me on my course of action. 
As yet we had no dug-out worth going to, and 
I was trying to summon up courage to go to 


sleep again when Pettifer entered, candle in 
hand, a la Lady Macbeth. The old man was 
more moved than I had ever seen him.*" 
" There's a woman screaming somewhere, and 
I can't-a-bear it," he said. With that he 
turned, and I heard him go downstairs and 
undo the front door. I got the staff into the 
dug-out, such as it was (bad policy this), 
while another landed — farther away this time. 
Then I went out and found the street twenty 
yards away blocked with debris. It was 
Cyril's restaurant, which had been blown 
bodily into the street. Up among the 
wreckage, which was momentarily threaten- 
ing to subside still further, Pettifer, assisted by 
Jimmy, another *' old sweat," our cook, was 
busy. A child, a man, and a woman came 
out by some miracle alive and uninjured. 
These were the only survivors from among 
the eleven inmates, though at the time we had 
hopes for more, as there were still groans to be 

* On a previous occasion, when I had dared to leave my 
bed and suggest to Pettifer some precautionary move 
downstairs^ I had been soothed with the reply, "You just 
stay where you are, sir. What I say is, if it's got yer, it's 
got yer. vti ' ;^»* 'f^i^S it 


heard. The man came down in his shirt only, 
and besought me in a dazed way for leg 
covering. 1 had a greatcoat over my pyjamas, 
so he had my pyjama trousers then and there. 
Recouped with a pair of drawers, and sending 
across, as Pettifer required, the carpenter 
with a saw to work up the staircase from below 
if possible, I went to the Club and telephoned 
for the fire-escape ladder, to reach the parts of 
the house still standing ; and thence to the 
A. P.M., our good friend Captain Straughan, 
who dressed and came on the scene with his 
men. Meanwhile the shelling had apparently 
ceased for the night, but our increased resources 
and the early morning light only revealed the 
completeness of the catastrophe. Madame 
Cyril was alive when reached, but died shortly 
afterwards. Her husband's head could nowhere 
be found until the following day, when it was 
discovered in the house opposite — blown by a 
grim jest of death across the narrow street and 
through a broken window. But these dark 
details are only permissible if they serve to 
set forth the profile of my hero the more 

If, indeed, no man may be " a hero to his own 


valet," yet the converse is a proved event ; and 
" A Dream of Honest Men-Servants, from 
Saul's Armour- Bearer to Sancho Panza, from 
Slop to Samuel Weller," would furnish a noble 
theme. For if, on the one hand, the plush 
Jeames descends from the melancholy Jaques, 
Old Adam and Mark Tapley, on the other 
hand, would acknowledge as heir to their spirit 
many a humble batman who has loved his 
officer like his own son — yea, and, if need be, 
has proved it by the most incontestable of 



It is one thing to trade in light reminiscence, 
and that upon the friendhness of a voluntary 
audience. It is another for a parish priest to 
dwell openly on memories that do not grow 
less sacred, as they recede into the background 
of time. Truly, Talbot House had " a great 
altar to see to," and no Chapel in B.E.F., 
joyous and noble as some were, can have 
witnessed so many vicissitudes without, and 
such continuity of worship within. 

Let me try, then, to tell the story of the 
Chapel in such sequence as is possible, inter- 
rupting the recital only with reflections that 
cannot be withheld ; and if the narrative grows 
tedious, or begins to savour of the Cathedral 
verger's " We releads the roof once every 
hundred years, we does," then — break gently 


with your guide, but only that you make your 
pilgrimage in silence. 

For the first fortnight, the Chapel of Talbot 
House was on the floor below the attic. It 
was Padre Crisford, of the L.R.B., who 
insisted on its exaltation to the big hoploft 
above. The difficulty of this step lay in the 
fact that one wall of this attic had been holed 
by a shell ; and even when this damage was 
repaired, the R.E.'s entered their caveat against 
the soundness of the floor. There ensued a 
series of consultations which grew gloomier in 
ascending ratio of rank. First, two London 
sappers danced on it, and assured us cheerily 
that it would stand anything. So far so good. 
But the lance-corporal in charge of them 
shook his head with the pregnant pessimism 
of Lord Burleigh himself. An appeal was 
lodged with the sergeant over him, who 
expressed the gravest doubts. Next, the 
lieutenant immediately concerned tapped and 
condemned the joists. His captain came in 
one day, and verbally countersigned this adverse 
verdict. The major of the Field Company 
trod as delicately as Agag, and left us a prey 
to an hourly expectation of spontaneous 



collapse. In despair, we appealed to Colonel 
Tannet- Walker,* who, after personal inspec- 
tion, had the details of the floor worked out 
and presented in triplicate, proving conclusively 
that the attic was wholly unsafe. After this 
we asked no more questions, but opened the 
Chapel therein without more ado. 

Times were when it repented us of our 
rashness, but we lived to repent of our repen- 
tance. On Sunday nights, for years on end, 
with a hundred and fifty full-grown men 
squeezed in somehow, and twenty more upon 
the stairs, the Chapel rocked like a huge 
cradle ; until we were fain to ask a congrega- 
tion drilled into habits of simultaneous move- 
ment to kneel and stand in lingering succession. 
On occasions of shelling or bombing, or (once) 
of both these amenities together, the Chapel 
might readily have carried the congregation 
with it. On one Sunday night in July, 1917, 
there were nearly a hundred casualties at 
Poperinghe Station during Evensong in the 
Chapel. On March 18, 1918, a Quiet Day 
conducted by Archdeacon Southwell was held 

* The originator afterwards of the elephant dug-outs in 
the Asylum and on the Canal Bank. 


in spite of a slow methodical shelling. Several 
'obus" landed within fifty yards of the Chapel, 
but the Quiet Day went on. I can recall 
Celebrations and Confessions with similar 

There was at such times a curious feeling of 
comfort and peace in the complete impotence 
which threw the mind wholly upon the 
unknown will of God. It was so utterly 
impossible to foresee the immediate future that 
it ceased to be a matter of great concern ;* 
and, for the rest, the tiny light that burned 
above the altar shone with so tranquil a 
significance that some men (and real men too) 
preferred to go upstairs rather than down, 
when the neighbourhood was unhealthy. 

Be all this as it may, in the attic our altar 
was builded, at the close of 1915. The Bishop 
of Winchester sent us out some splendid old 
hangings, dark red and dark green, which had 
once been in use in the private Chapel at 
Southwark. These were hung so as to form a 
baldachino, beneath which was set the car- 
penter's bench, raised on a rough dais. 

* I speak as the most timid civilian that ever took 
shelter in khaki. 


Perugino's " Crucifixion," cunningly framed 
by a Queen's Westminster in the broken top 
of a wicker table, with a lick of gold paint 
round the bamboo edging, formed the altar- 
piece. Subsequently this was replaced by a 
splendid crucifix made and presented by 120th 
Railway Construction Company, An exquisite 
silver-gilt chalice, also a memorial, with a 
veil of perfect Flemish lace from 6th London 
Field Ambulance, came later, but may be 
mentioned here ; as also may be the gift of a 
Guards' officer, an altar-frontal of green and 
gold, the noble work of the Sisters of Hay ward's 

The weakness of the central space was so 
pronounced that we left it carpeted, but open ; 
thus bringing the sanctuary down into the 
midst of the congregation, who were benched 
on either side. From the king-beam of the 
loft there hung a great gilt candelabrum, 
which bathed the whole Chapel in a warm 
glow of light, with sconces from the side walls 
to complete the illumination. We avoided 
that painful obsession of the modern church 
furnisher, the handsome communion rail ; and 
a strip of carpet, flanked by two black candle- 


sticks, emphasised the unity between mini- 
strant and recipients. With a similar concep- 
tion, many offers of R.E. Companies to 
construct a pulpit were firmly set aside. All 
through the three years gifts to the Chapel came 
in. A Confirmation chair was given in memory 
of a wonderful boy, Lance-corporal Archie 
Forrest, who was baptised and confirmed and 
received his Communion in the little Chapel 
all in six short weeks, before he and many of 
his comrades * passed from war to peace in the 
terrible summer of 1917. The great standard 
candlesticks made out of old carved bedposts 
were the gift of a Canadian gunner, in 
memory of the Australians and Canadians 
who worshipped with us. An oval silver 
wafer- box, commemorating Rifleman Newton 
Gammon, Q.W.R., supplied the bread of 
blessing for those who knelt where he had 
knelt before them. A beautiful old prie-dieu 
bore the names of Arthur Mayhew (6th London) 
and William Wellings Locke (133 Field Ambu- 
lance). Many other dedications on pictures and 
on candlesticks, Bible f and Missal, spoke of the 

* P. Special {i.e. Gas) Company, R.E. 

t The experimental experience of Talbot House found 


saints that had been of Caesar's household, and 
Ufted the hearts of those that came after out 
of the lonehness of their discipleship into a 
fellowship with many witnesses. 

This inventory of ornaments is, perhaps, a tale 
of little worth in the judgment of those who 
are accustomed to the lavish elegancies of a 
home parish. Yet such will bear with me, 
when they remember how far a little beauty 
went amid such surroundings as ours. To live 
day after day not only in danger but in squalor ; 
to be gipsies in season and out, in a nightmare 
fit for Cain ; to be homeless amid all that is 
hideous and disheartening, habituated only to 
a foreground of filth and to a horizon of 
apparently invincible menace ; to move always 
among the wreckage of men's lives and hopes, 
haunted not only by a sense of being yourself 

that Church notices, put together with forethought, were 
valuable as an occasional alternative to a first lesson ; and 
that the New Testament lesson gained greatly by a distri- 
bution of books to all the congregation, " Weymouth " 
then being read aloud and followed intently. Half the 
difficulties of the use of the Prayer-book are overcome, if 
the number of the page is given out clearly. The un- 
familiar are thankful for this guidance ; and those offended 
are worth offending^ 


doomed to die, but by an agony of mind which 
cried out at every step against the futile folly 
of the waste of time and of treasure, of skill and 
of life itself — this is what war meant to a soul 
sensitive to such impressions. Those at home, 
who were sympathetic to such information, 
heard with imaginative ardour of services held 
in strange places, and from their cushioned 
pews sighed for experiences so unconventional 
and uplifting. But crudity, especially when 
muddy, is a tonic that can lose its stimulative 
value, and become merely repulsive. Thus it 
was that the homely beauty of the Chapel, with 
its inward gift of hope and fellowship, drew 
many who learnt their hunger in the grimmest 
school which the spirit of man has yet experi- 
enced ; and eyes, hardened by indomitable will 
to withstand the brutalising obscenities of war, 
softened to appraise our simple seeking after 
sweetness and light. 

How far this contrast exists in civil life, and 
whether its operation is likely to be similar in 
effect, I cannot here inquire. Yet my rede 
would be that the Church is indeed lacking in 
a wise and wide conception of its task, if it fails 
to employ its heritage of beauty in ceremony 


and ornament, in the midst of a civilisation so 
squalid and so drab as ours. Yet it must 
always be remembered that the task of the 
Church is not completed, until this contrast 
ceases to exist ; and that it is in the clubs, in 
the schools, in the streets and homes themselves, 
that we must no less be lovers of the beautiful. 

Certain other relics there were in the Chapel 
that had a pathos all their own — a figure of the 
Virgin brought down triumphantly by a tired 
man from a German dug-out beyond Pilkem, 
early in August, 1917 ; a linen streamer 
(visible on the picture post-card) that came 
from Ypres Cathedral ; a wooden carving of a 
monk, found in the ruins of Velu on the 
Somme, and brought as a gift to the Chapel by 
a delightful gunner,"^ who was killed before he 
could deposit it in the place whither he had 
brought it with such loving care. Even the 
small semicircular windows were transformed 
by the ingenuity of the 14th Motor Machine 
Gunners into a passable semblance of stained 
glass, and when the rest of the windows of the 
house were blown in these remained intact. 

Church music was an early problem of 

* Corporal Charlie Payne, 18th Siege Battery. 


pressing urgency ; and in January, 1916, 
Major Street arrived back from leave with a 
portable harmonium somehow blended with 
his kit. This groan-box, though much given 
to weakness at the knees, served us faithfully 
for six months. In Holy Week, 1916, 1 
managed to borrow Godfrey Gardner,* then 
lieutenant in the Suffolk Regiment, for a week's 
duty at Talbot House, and his skill on this 
tiny instrument was a miracle of adaptation. 

That first Holy Week, observed as it was 
with a completeness never before attempted 
in a place so near the line, taught us all much. 
The daily services were full, and the Three 
Hours Service conducted by Neville drew to- 
gether a cluster of about fifty Christian men,*j* 
intent upon a common homage to One whose 
way of suffering they themselves now ap- 
proached with a sympathy and admiration 
born of their own experience. Only the day 
before there had been bloody doings near the 
Canal at Boesinghe, when a company of the 
Bedfords had been blown by a whirlwind con- 

* Killed on the Somme in July, 1916. He was organist 
of the Royal Philharmonic Society. 

t Among them the Corps Commander, seated between a 
lieutenant and a private. 


centration out of a miserable travesty of a 
trench — E.35, I think — and the tale of the 
Agony and the Darkness fell upon our ears with 
a new sense of kinship ; while the Easter mes- 
sage in its turn lifted our hearts to the note of 
a redemption of the world accomplished only 
through sacrifice human and divine. Easter 
Eve brought us gifts of spring flowers not only 
gathered in the ruined gardens of Ypres and 
Goldfisch Chateau by our own men, but also 
great bunches of bloom from some Belgian 
Nuns hard by. As an earnest of the morrow, 
there also came large numbers of officers and 
men eager to make their Confessions. Trained 
as I had been to regard this practice as excep- 
tional, nothing impressed me more than the 
intense relief with which, throughout the three 
years, hundreds of the most manly and noble- 
minded came thus to the feet of Jesus; and 
the voluntary humiliation, which is there sus- 
tained, was not the penitent's alone; for the 
glimpse of lives plunged into realities else over- 
whelming, yet conscious more than ever of the 
dominating reality of God Himself, could but 
move the human assistant to a sense of awe 
and self-reproach. It were easier not to say 


these things at all in the publicity of print, but 
this omission would be false stewardship on 
my part ; and I feel that it is the wish of those 
who went thence, as some did, to their im- 
mediate death, that the secret of their spiritual 
strength should thus be known. 

Easter Day, 1916, I shall always regard as 
the happiest of my ministry. We had no past 
evidence to assist in estimating the number of 
Communicants to be expected, or the times 
most convenient for their coming. Therefore, 
as an act of hope, the Holy Week and Easter 
Service list, printed long before in England, 
announced ten Celebrations from 5.30 a.m 
onwards. It was quite possible, especially in 
view of the lively state of the line, that only 
a few would be able to attend. The event far 
surpassed our hopes. Not only was every 
Celebration furnished well with joyful guests, 
but so great was the throng, and so diver- 
gent their estimates of time, that the whole of 
the floor below the Chapel was full of con- 
gregations waiting to replace that already 
above. Singlehanded as I was, I could do no 
more than Lift and Break and Give without 
pause from 5.30 until after noonday, those that 



were fed being above four hundred men.* At 
11.30 we sang Merbecke, greatly aided by 
Godfrey Gardner in the further loft, and by 
some of the Welsh G uards' choir. The congre- 
gation had long ago overflowed its benches, and 
men knelt where they could. Englishmen are 
awkward and self-conscious, as a rule, in 
worship, but there was a spirit there which set 
them at ease. Hymns, during the long silences 
of the administration, came with a quiet spon- 
taneity, as though a voice had said "It is I : 
be not afraid. Handle Me, and see." 

At 12.30 Colonel Hutchinson carried 
Gardner, myself, and the little groan- box 
off to lunch at his group headquarters on 
the Elverdinge Road. After an Easter ser- 
vice there, we went on to one of his batteries 
at Fantasio Farm. The afternoon was 
spring-like, and a Boche aeroplane was 
directing some target practice on Hale's 
Farm a few hundred yards away, which was 
used as a storehouse for the hand-grenades of 
that name. The farm was alight, and its 

* At Easter, 1917, these numbers grew to five hundred ; 
at Easter, 1918, on account of the military situation, only a 
hundred and sixty were able to come. 


contents were detonating in a staccato manner. 
Our car swung round the narrow corner 
beyond the brewery at Elverdinghe, and 
awakened the malicious interest of the 
observer, who bracketed on the road behind 
and in front of us. By this time we were 
almost alongside Fantasio Farm, and the 
Adjutant ordered us to tumble out with the 
harmonium, and make our way to our destina- 
tion, while he piloted the car out of danger. 
This we did, and, after a short respite in a 
friendly ditch, proceeded towards the ruin 
previously pointed out to us, carrying the 
harmonium, hymn-books, and Communion 
case. The farm looked deserted in the 
extreme, but we were not a little cheered by 
a notice-board on an adjacent tree-trunk 
displaying the following, or something like it : 

FANTASIO FARM. '' B.21.d.5-9. 






We were welcomed, first into the mess, and 
then for reason of policy into the dug-out ; 
for our arrival with the harmonium had 
apparently been marked by the cherub up 
aloft. When he gave over and went home 
to tea we also emerged, to find that the 
battery cow, already entitled to three gold 
stripes on its foreleg, had qualified for a 
fourth. After our two services had been 
triumphantly held we sped back to Poperinghe, 
arriving on the stroke of half-past six. 
Pettifer met me at the door with the news 
that the Chapel was packed for Evensong, 
and that Colwell, a dear old orderly of the 
House, had been badly hit in the lungs, and 
was anxious to see me at No. 17 Casualty 
Clearing Station on (or rather off) the Abeele 
Road. With a heavy heart I went to Even- 
song, asking the Motor Machine Gun captain 
who was there to send me down to see the 
boy at once after conclusion of the last 
Celebration.* By 8.30 we were storming 

* I cannot raise here, nor indeed would I wish to do so, 
a discussion of the great problems of Reservation and 
Fasting Communion. Talbot House began with a bias 
against the first practice, and in favour of the second. 


along the Abeele Road, but neither of us 
knew the exact position of the hospital. I 
was, however, certain that the switch railway- 
line led to it ; so, leaving the Clyno where the 
railway crossed the road, I walked along the 
track in the dark, only to find a train drawn 
up on it, and that across a bridge so narrow 
that the coaches overlapped it on either side. 
It was no time for hesitation, so I crept in 
under the train and so along across the 
sleepers, a distance relatively short, but 
rendered interminable in imagination by my 
ignorance of the engine-driver's intentions. 
Had I known my Belgian trains then as I 
know them now, my fears would have been 

After a while, and guided solely (as I believe we should be) 
by the principle that no rule, however cherished, should 
stand between the lay Communicant and a devout and 
frequent Reception, these judgments were reversed in our 
use. Reservation, for purposes of administration, links the 
tired and lonely worshipper, deterred from attendance in 
the morning by duty, to those who then remembered their 
brotherhood with him. Evening Communion, from the 
Sacrament thus Reserved, can come with a great silence 
and peace, which the haste and bustle of the morning 
often invade. The mere physical fasting is as nothing 
in comparison with the preparatory vigil of the mind 
and soul. 



dispelled. Once across the bridge, 1 crawled 
thankfully out between two wheels, and found 
the tented hospital, and the patient doing 
better than I had dared to hope. When I 
got back to Talbot House I was more than 
grateful for my Sunday supper. 

This rambling reminiscence must once more 
suffice where deeper thoughts lie hidden. The 
story of other Festivals would differ only in 
detail, and of every Sunday only in degree. 
For more than a year the little Chapel had 
seldom less than a hundred Communicants 
each week, and when London Divisions were 
near at hand these numbers almost doubled. 
Certainly more than ten thousand officers and 
men have received the Sacrament in that 
Upper Room. Some eight hundred have 
been confirmed there, and nearly fifty bap- 
tised. Some who read these lines will 
remember witnessing a scene, like that in 
the last chapter of " The House of Prayer," 
when three men of the British West Indian 
Regiment, sponsored by three of their own 
sergeants already Christians, received the sign 
upon their foreheads. The congregation at 
the time — a weekday Evensong — included 


Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, as 
well as men from the Old Country ; and a few 
Chinese coolies, who had found their way into 
the Chapel, watched with amazement actions 
so simple yet so profound. 

Canadian churchmanship impressed me not 
a little. For six months in 1916 a Canadian 
sergeant-major was the Vicars warden ; and 
it was he most appropriately welcomed the 
Archbishop of Canterbury * on his memorable 
visit to the House early that summer. Almost 
the first Canadians I saw were two tunnellers, 
who on a weekday morning set out from the 
old French dug-outs beyond Vlamertinghe at 
5 a.m., and arrived at the Chapel for the 
Celebration (then at 6.30 on weekdays), 
having heard that the service was held daily, 
and being quite prepared to forego their 
chances of breakfast at the end of a ten-mile 
walk. The first Australian that came my way 
turned up on a Saturday night, and, having 
consulted the service-list, reproached me with 
having no Celebration he could attend : " 7.30's 
no good to me, Padre ; I'll be on duty by then." 

* Cosmo Ebor also honoured the House with a visit on 
the eve of the 19 J 7 offensive. 


I offered to have a special Sunday Celebration 
at 6.30 for him. " Now you're talking, Padre ; 
I'll be there, and I may bring a bunch of boys 
along." Next morning, at 6.30 a.m., behold 
twenty - seven Communicants from one 
Australian Field Ambulance ! Most overseas 
men regarded their young countries as back* 
ward only in religion — " You see. Padre, 
Australia's a godless place compared to the 
Old Country." 1 hoped not: then there came a 
little flood of light — " Bill, now ; why, he's not 
much of a Churchman. Pays his church-rate 
and mission-money, and it about ends there 
with him." With how small a proportion of 
C. of E. in England does it get as far as that 
double free-will offering ! 

In justice, however, to the home Church, 
and to the ministry of other denominations 
as well, it may here be added that there were 
very few men who did not know at home one 
parson whom they liked. True, they often 
regarded him as an exception to the general 
rule, but that is the English way. Some 
made delightfully naive comment on their 
clergy, such as, " Our Vicar, of course, 
doesn't have much time for us. He has to 


go a lot into society"; or, "Our Vicar's very 
High Church, and doesn't hold with open-air 
preachings " ; but for the most part, the work 
of the old black-coated guard accomplishes 
more than they ever know. 

By an order or equivalent tradition of the 
Regular Army, offertories are only of excep- 
tional occurrence. But the Army, as it was 
in Flanders, contained many who were rich, 
either positively or by comparison, and 
generous alike beyond all control. It was 
largely upon the gifts of these, not forgetting 
the continual help of some benefactors at 
home,^ that the financial credit of the House 
reposed. For three years the House collected 
more than the yearly maintenance of an 
adopted child for the Waifs and Strays 
Society. This little girl, whom none of us 
had ever seen, was the object of the most 
affectionate solicitude among small and great. 
The Military Police in the Prison at Ypres 

* Parents, on the spontaneous recommendation of their 
boys, or in memory of sons " gone west/' sent us monies for 
the welfare of the House ; while publishers, such as the 
Cambridge University Press and Dent's, supplied us freely 
with invaluable reinforcements for the Library. -• 


collected eagerly on her behalf even during the 
exceedingly rough period of April, 1917. Major 
Harry Jago, D.S.O., M.C., of 2nd Devons, 
asks anxiously for her in the last letter before 
his death. One Lancashire lad, than whom 
no more loyal friend could be met with, told 
me for three Sundays in succession how his 
officer was giving a prize for the best-kept 
mules. And it was not until one night, when 
he came in triumph and laid the prize-money 
in my hand for the little girl, that I knew the 
secret of his ambition. Yet another, having 
lost his sole chance of leave, through its 
closing down for the fighting time ahead, 
paid in the hundred francs which he had 
saved to spend at home. If any endowment 
ever carried blessings with it, Hannah Mitchell 
was blessed indeed. 

But the Belgian children also profited by 
the same spirit; and on three occasions we 
feted them with incredible energy. Their 
great day was always December 6, the Feast 
of Saint Nicholas, on the eve whereof the 
carrot is well and truly laid at the foot of the 
chimney to win the favour of his donkey at 
the conclusion of its precipitate downward 

De H.H. Voorzitter en BestuurKfeden van Talbot House, 
bestaande uit Officieren en soldaten van het Britisch leger, 
begeerende hunne kleine Belgische vriendjes als naar oude 
gewoonte de feestdag van St. Niklaas vrengdevol te zien 
doorbrengen, hebben de eer. 


uit te noodigen tot het Kindeifeest, welk zal gegeven worden 
op 6 December om 1.30 Uuren namiddag in Talbot House, 
85 Gasthuis straat. 

Het feest zal bestaan uit allerhande spelen, verfrisschingen, 
uit deelen van speelgoed en Cinema Vertooning. 

Voor de kleinen welk op heden niet uitgenoodigd zijn wotdt 
een tweede feesle op 1 Januari. 

Het spijt ons dat de geringheid van plaats waarover wij 
beschikken ons niet toelaat de ouders uit te noodigen. Degenen 
die hunne kleinen na het feest willen naar huis leiden kunnen 
ze om 4.30 Uuren namiddag komen halen. 



career. Our parties took a prodigious amount 
of organising, and for weeks beforehand both 
the A.M.F.O. and the post corporal had 
their endurance greatly strained. Our first 
fete nearly broke down at the outset, for on 
the arrival of the school I approached a dismal 
little boy, and asked him in French what he 
would like to play, to which he responded 
with a sad philosophy: "Belgian children have 
forgotten their games." Sure enough, an 
attempt at "hunt the slipper" was a miser- 
able failure ; but the happy inspiration of an 
apple, smeared with ration jam, and dependent 
on a string, between our pensive philosopher 
and a rival, both blindfold, quickly attained 
international celebrity. Five hundred cups 
of tea, after they were made, proved a novelty 
not so palatable ; but the memory of this false 
step was drowned in Fry's Cocoa, brewed in 
supplementary buckets. After this, a Pathe 
film of a real Belgian pre-war fete (happily, 
yet honestly, come by) brought the school- 
master to his feet with a speech more eloquent 
than intelligible. How is it that all our Allies 
are born orators, and we so slow at the uptake ? 
The last children's party almost ended in 


tragedy, for before its completion bombing 
began. No harm was done, and the children 
were imperturbable — far more so than their 
parents and their hosts. A rumour, however, 
reached Blighty, with the result that some 
melancholy Jaques in the House of Commons 
starred a question as to the number of Belgian 
children who had been massacred at a party in 
Poperinghe by bombs dropped from an English 
aeroplane ! 

Chief among other objects for which Talbot 
House appealed was the Service Candidates 
Fund, which indeed was opened by large 
offertories from Talbot House, the first 
donation being from Major Street's family. 
And as the whole scheme for Service Candi- 
dates, as it is now called, originated in Talbot 
House, and some two hundred of the original 
candidates enlisted there, some sketch of its 
inception and ideals may well conclude this 
chapter ; for there is no movement in the 
Church to-day fraught with greater possibilities 
for good, if led with vision and practical wisdom. 
On the other hand, if through lack of these, 
through class prejudice or inadequate financial 
support, the movement is paralysed, then the 


Church will lose its hold on the loyalty of men 
confident in the sincerity of its attitude towards 
them ; and the memory of the failure will 
darken all our days. 

When it became obvious in 1915 that the 
war was destined to be prolonged, the future 
recruitment for the ministry of the Church 
was a matter calling for considerable foresight. 
Even before the war both the number and the 
quality of the candidates for Orders had caused 
grave misgivings. This was not due, as the 
R.P.A. imagined, to a general intellectual 
defection ; but rather to the miserable penury 
which the richest Church in Christendom was 
contented to consider adequate for the bulk 
of its ministers, and to the narrow class of 
society from which they were mostly drawn. 
Now, every year of war meant a loss of at 
least five hundred men to the ministry, and 
though in some cases that loss was only a 
postponement, in many more it was final. 
The temper and tradition of the Church of 
England are patriotic* to a fault. Both the 

* It is interesting incidentally to observe that in the first 
Canadian and Australian forces the Anglican percentage 
was out of all proportion to the relative denominational 


old and new armies drew thousands of their 
officers from the parsonage, and every cohimn 
of obituary notices contained one or more 
instance of the death of a young aspirant to 
Holy Orders. 

Now, a study of the aftermath of England's 
last three wars showed that numbers of surviv- 
ing officers in each case came subsequently 
into the ministry. But in armies such as we 
now possessed the class distinction as such 
ceased almost to exist ; and in view of the 
industrial outlook it would be folly indeed if 
the ministry, alone among the professions, 
refused to recognise the justice of the principle 
of equality of opportunity. God forbid that 
His Church should cling to a fallacy so crude 
and so snobbish as virtually to deny that His 
Call can come to men of other than public 
school training ; and when we remember that 
the oldest among these schools, and the senior 
Universities into which they flow, were first 
estabhshed not for the rich but for the poor 
(and that by the Church's own generous 
wisdom), the need for the reassert ion of a 
principle as old as the Christian ministry 
itself, in a manner striking and unhesitating, 


becomes vitally important. The conception 
of a Levitical tribe is purely pre-Christian ; 
and the custom of the celibacy of the clergy, 
though more questionable on other grounds, 
at least prevented the stale inter-breeding of a 
small class of the community M^hich is partly 
responsible for so much clericalism being co- 
existent with so little vital religion. 

The war, with its reassertion of the vertical 
divisions between nations, erased, or at least 
softened, the horizontal divisions of class ; and 
the time was ripe for a great forward njove- 
ment on the part of the Church itself towards 
the ideas already seen in the working at 
Kelham and Mirfield. In the Challenge in 
April, 1915, the vision of a great recruitment 
from all ranks of the Army, resulting in colleges 
of men of every type and social standing, 
united by the experience of war, and called so 
as by fire, was first set forth. And in Talbot 
House the men were first enrolled. Later the 
lists grew beyond the scope of private responsi- 
bility, and were transferred to Headquarters. 
Bishop Gwynne consulted the Archbishops on 
the whole problem, with the result that the 
authoritative sanction of the Church was given 


to the scheme ; and to-day over 2,000 officers 
and men are candidates for preliminary training 
and selection. ^ 

It is the very reverse of our aim to produce 
an ill-equipped ministry, and the candidates 
themselves are eager for a real and liberal 
education. But the verdict on this vital point 
rests with the financial authorities of the 
Church, and behind them in the last resort 
with the sympathy and steady assistance during 
these ensuing years of Churchpeople at large. 
No inanimate memorial can compare in the 
sight of God with a living witness, trained and 
equipped, and eager for his share in the task of 
reconciliation both of man with God and of 
man with man. 

I cannot leave the old Chapel thus. I must 
climb once more the steep and narrow stairs, 
and find the lamp glowing above the altar in 
that Upper Room. It is empty else, but indeed 
I can people it at will. Here are many dear 
friends and brave hearts. Arthur Cole will be 
my Server, and Charlie Williams will lead the 
singing. Bernard Stenning, Alfred Atkinson, 

* At the amazing school for Service Candidates, now 
estabhshed in the Prison at Knutsford, this dream is 
coming more than true. 


Fred Burrows, Bertie Hoptrough, Cyril Russell, 
Basil Laurence, Arthur Aked, Landels Fol- 
kard, Percy Cooper, Bill Ogden, and a hundred 
more will draw near to kneel where He, who 
is invisible as they, may minister to them the 
medicine of immortality. Here, in the times 
of prayer, hearts have been open. Here the 
blind have received their sight, the lame have 
walked, and the lepers been cleansed indeed. 

ye spirits and souls of the righteous ; O ye 
holy and humble men of heart ; O ye of the 
furnace seven times heated ; bless ye the Lord. 
For it was with Him that ye walked unharmed 
in the midmost of the fire. 

Postscript. — On reading this chapter in proof, I find 
that it conveys too rose-coloured an impression of the state 
of religion, which those who had a finger on the spiritual 
pulse of the Army for any length of time were far from 
feeling. A League of the Mnspiritual War, had it ever 
existed, would have mustered a large and influential 

Secondly, there is no mention of party terms, an omission 

1 do not regret. As the thing was, the open Prayer- 
meeting was as natural a part of Sunday worship as the 
Eucharist; and the House was Evangelical to the core, 
whatever else it added. Many Nonconformists were 
members of our congregation, for we all agreed to hold 
by our affirmative principles, and the " yeas " of religious 
experience do not conflict. Besides, what faith we found 
was Galilean, and had the gift of dawn. 




The story of the House in 1918 must be 
told with considerable restraint; for in the 
two most critical moments of that year it found 
itself in the bad books of certain local military 
authorities, and it would be ill to use de- 
mobilised freedom as a cloak of maliciousness. 
It was not, of course, to be expected that those 
concerned with issues then so vital could always 
permit the individual to do what he thought 
his duty ; nor, on the other hand, was I, who 
had always regarded the Army rather as a 
sphere of work than as a school of unquestion- 
ing obedience, an individual worthy of such 
consideration. The humorous element in the 
situation is that from the point of view of 
Talbot House the tremendous tides of the 
year's campaign are chiefly memorable in their 
domestic results, much as in "The White 

1918 95 

Company " the old bowman*s tale of Poictiers 
leads his audience to doubt whether it was his 
looted feather-bed or the kingly crown of 
France that was most notably at stake. 

The winter of 1917-18 was supremely 
wretched. The defeat of our summer hopes, 
and the full extent of our autumn losses, were 
common, though whispered, knowledge. An 
evil spirit for the first time troubled both 
officers and men ; and in the inevitable stagna- 
tion the phantom of failure, ridiculed before, 
walked grimly abroad, and was not always 

Carlyle construes man's unhappiness to come 
out of his greatness, and certainly this sense 
of failure wounded most deeply where there 
was most depth to wound. The Army, so 
Roman in its outlook and traditions,* gave 
under pressure of circumstance a certain 
attention to this phenomenon, and treated 
the decline in morale with a massage of enter- 
tainments and longer canteen hours. A bolder 
policy would have succeeded better, for the 
soldier with a mind (and in this Army such 

* I am not referring to the Royal Army Chaplains' 


men were no negligible number) needed rather 
light and leading. Desertion — that most pitiful 
tragedy of active service — while always merci- 
fully rare, became during these months less 
rare than usual, so far as my experience went. 
Four men in a single week gave themselves up 
in Talbot House in the childish hope that I 
could in some way undo what they had done. 
Rancour and ill-feeling between officers and men 
first then forced themselves upon my attention ; 
and, with a sufficient audacity, we instituted, 
to counteract some of these poisons, a series 
of informal meetings called " grousing circles," 
to which a nucleus of trustworthy friends 
brought men with grievances, while a few 
splendidly helpful officers dropped in to listen 
and occasionally to advise. These meetings 
were so manifestly good that, when reported to 
the Army Staff, they were not only sanctioned, 
but several local troubles were quietly adjusted. 
The chief causes of complaint were simple in 
the extreme — the admitted injustice of the 
distribution of leave, the inequitable distribu- 
tion of the bread and biscuit ration, in which 
the infantry (as usual) came out the losers, the 
absence of restaurant accommodation for men, 

1918 97 

the grotesque inequalities of pay, and so forth. 
In the suburbs of war, where Poperinghe now 
found itself, the pulse of brotherhood beat far 
more slowly than in the slums — that is, in 
the line itself; and throughout the world of 
auxiliary forces (mechanical transport, etc.) 
the strain could indeed be severe, but the 
spirit of unity and sacrifice was lacking. As 
for the West-End of Warfare, it was, from the 
point of view of men who had experienced it 
for a short while, conducted in the manner 
of a mixed workhouse ; where the sins of the 
worthless were visited upon the respectable, as 
a deterrent which should reduce their visits to 
a minimum. Even the cleavage between the 
temporary and the time-serving Army was now 
more marked than hitherto. The two variant 
attitudes of mind may be summarised in two 
sentences: the civilian soldier said: "I don't 
mind the war so much, but I can't stick the 
Army"; the regular replied: ** When can we 
finish with this beastly war and get back to real 
soldiering?" It is partly the distaste for this"real 
soldiering " that emptied the Army so early and 
so fast after the armistice. A great exodus from 
an ancient fraternity is always a melancholy 



spectacle, and impoverishing in the double loss 
that it entails. The Church, after the death of 
Wesley and the secession of his followers, found 
its life for a generation bound in shallows, while 
the seceders for their part have grown to feel 
a sense of loss not the less real because so diffi- 
cult of definition. So the great man-slide of 
these last few months from the B.E.F. discovers, 
perhaps, already in many hearts feelings of a 
mutual understanding which in the time of 
union were as hotly repudiated. 

All this, while we stand still on the threshold 
of the 1918 campaign 1 I kept a diary of sorts 
during this last year for the first time ; but its 
entries are often irrelevant, as the patient 
reader of these chapters has cause enough to 
conjecture. Notes of engagements and precis 
of meetings are most strongly in evidence ; but 
even these have interest. By example, on 
January 17 Colonel Bushell,^ of 7th Queens, 
arrived to beg for waste-paper and sandbags 
of sufficient quality, if possible, to make gaiters 
and snow-boots for his depleted battalion. He 
and his major were both great friends of the 
House, and we strove to meet his requirements 

* A famous commander and posthumous V.C. 

1918 99 

with two or three bundles of sandbags, which 
we had acquired by private influence from a 
certain dump with a view to a dug-out of our 
own. For the paper, several bundles of highly 
patriotic leaflets which had recently arrived 
seemed admirably adapted for the purpose, 
being both hot and strong. 

Other entries show the House proceeding 
normally with not more than the customary 
series of crises in each twenty-four hours. 
Chaplains' conferences, journeyings to outlying 
parishioners, daily services, concerts, debates, 
whist- drives, etc., stretch out like the line of 
spectral kings before Macbeth. All the winter 
we were hard at work on education both civic 
and scholastic, and, indeed, quiet talks on 
housing drew more men than many a noisy 
game of " House." We had, moreover, at this 
time a dramatic party of our very own, which 
acted, with amazing eclat, " Detective Keen " 
and similar dramas, complete to the last re- 
volver and the dumbest telephone. As a spring 
pantomime, we rose to " The Critic," in which 
I regret to recall that I doubled the parts of 
the Beefeater and Tilburina, an arrangement 
at which Sheridan would have shuddered. 


On March 19 we even gave a performance 
in the Y.M.C.A. just inside the Lille Gate at 
Ypres, being (I think) the only theatrical party 
that accomplished this. The New Zealanders 
there paid courteous attention for a while ; 
but the noble work of the master wit might 
have found no purchase on their Caledonian 
souls, had not the whispering whine of several 
gas-shells without caused the heroine suddenly 
to dart into the wings, reappearing thence with 
a " boxspirator " at the ready. This quite 
broke the ice, and all went merrily henceforth. 
The next day, I believe, a gas-shell pitched on 
the billiard-table there, and a few days later 
the hut itself was wrecked. Even as we spoke 
the mocking lines, " England's fate, like a 
clipped guinea, trembles in the scales," the 
fact indeed was so. 

Thursday, 21st (Vernal Equinox), is full of 
notes of a conference on moral education, one 
of a series we were holding in the House on 
Thursdays. Down south the storm was then 
bursting in its full fury, and locally we had cause 
to guess as much, since the whole area had been 
painfully lively for a week past ; and long- 
range guns were distributing a daily massage 

1918 101 

of peculiar potency upon our back areas. 
Both Cyril's crash and the Quiet Day elsewhere 
referred to occurred in this week. 

On Sunday, 24th, small congregations ruled 
— only twenty-six making their Communion. 
The Sunday night was highly electric, and 
Pepys refers to rats in the kitchen — which 
means, I think, that he moved his bed down- 
stairs. On Lady Day a confidential letter 
came through from A.H.Q., conveying with 
characteristic kindness a word of warning from 
ipsissimus ipse against any concentration of 
troops in Talbot House. *' Ypres," so the 
letter runs, " may soon be a far safer place 
than Poperinghe." Two days later my beloved 
Conductor for the Three Hours was prohibited 
from coming ; the good reasons underlying 
this bad news being inculcated during the day 
by a tremendous daylight pounding of the 
switch road near the Proven junction. 
Pettifer and I came in for a pinch of this, 
as we went down to scrounge lunch off the 
Area Commandant of S. Jans der Biezen.* 

* Colonel Lord Saye and Sele. It was said that an 
M.F.P. once asked him in Poperinghe for his pass, and 
upon its presentation asked hesitatingly : '' Excuse me, sir, 
but which of these gentlemen are you ?" 


A road normally more peaceful it would be 
hard to imagine, and we began to bowl along 
it, congratulating ourselves on the lorry that 
had picked us up, when we ran into a heavy 
entanglement of signal wires lying athwart 
the road. Thinking no evil, we dismounted ; 
when a roar like an excursion train full of 
shouting holiday-makers, followed by a black 
volcano of earth, opened our eyes to the 
reason why H.M. Signals were awry. There 
is no loneliness so depressing and yet so stimu- 
lating as that of a road deserted on account of 

The bombardment continued throughout the 
whole of the next day, being Wednesday in 
Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday it was 
intermittent; and I see that the Education 
Conference tackled "Lessons in Biology." On 
Good Friday there were only twenty at the 
Three Hours Service, and, mindful of warnings, 
we avoided a big evening lantern service in the 
House. On Saturday, among other things some 
Easter offerings of timber for the dug-out are 
noted ; and on Easter Day at all the services 
only a hundred made their Communion in 
the House. Our Easter Sunday supper 

1918 103 

was a merry meal to which about ten, 
both officers and men, sat down. These 
small and wisely mixed Sunday suppers had 
become by this time a regular institution, 
the founders of the feast being chiefly a 
Norfolk major, Harry Jago of the Devons, and 

Jago was a great joy to us all at this 
anxious time ; indeed, it is impossible to 
imagine him anywhere at any time without 
the same thing being truly said of him. He 
had come in first as if by accident ; and from 
that time onwards leapt by sheer splendour of 
character into a great place in our common 
life. I remember well one afternoon when 
the Devons, down from Passchendaele the 
night before, announced their return first by 
the visit of two young West-Countiy lads, 
who arrived with a present of books from a 
faithful sergeant. A few minutes later they 
were at tea, when the door of my room again 
opened to admit their major. Seeing their 
awkwardness, nothing would content him but 
that he should seat himself between them and 
draw them out both as their share in the past 
week's work and their Devonian lore. Beneath 


a manner ; :o young and irresistible there lay a 
nature deep and clear as crystal, with great 
selfless ambitions, and a latent reserve of 
strength such as is seldom encountered. 
Talks far into the night let me see something 
of this depth and intensity ; and when, later 
in the summer, the news came of the 
day when " the whole battalion, colonel, 
28 officers, and 552 non-commissioned officers 
and men, isolated and without hope of 
assistance, held on to their trenches north of 
the river, and fought to the last with 
unhesitating obedience to orders,"* we knew 
that all the trumpets had sounded for them on 
the other side. 

Concerning the lives of such men I know no 
better epitaph than the great saying of Sir 
John Smyth to Lord Burghley on the men in 
Flanders (1589-90) : " Consider the thousands 
of brave English people that have been con- 
sumed by sea and land within these few years ; 
which have not been rogues, cut-purses, horse- 
stealers, committers of burglary, nor other 
sorts of thieves, as some of our captains and 

 Citations from Orders of the Day, No. 371 of the 
Fifth French Army. 

1918 105 

men of war, to excuse themselves, do report. 
But, in truth, they were young gentlemen, 
yeomen and yeomen's sons, and artificers of 
the most brave sort, such as went voluntary to 
serve of a gaiety and joyalty of mind ; all which 
kind of people are the flower and force of a 
kingdom."* " Gaiety and joyalty of mind . . . 
the flower and force of a kingdom " — of a truth 
these are riches which constitute the true 
wealth of nations ; and they who speak only 
of the loss of life fail to realise how the 
examples thus set of constancy and noble love 
sweeten for ever the spirit of the country that 
has bred them. 

From Easter onwards the sky darkened as 
the spring came in. But the spirits of the 
Army rose to meet the emergency. Divisions, 
weary and depleted, held grimly on. Training- 
schools were broken up and their staffs rein- 
forced their old battalions, or, merged into 
some new and strange formation, stopped the 
gaps. My old friends from Leamington, t 

* I am indebted for this citation to a W.E.A. pamphlet 
by R. H. Tawney. 

t 213 (A.T.) R.E. Company, under Captain Pengelley, 
M.C., who himself was killed. 


who for years had formed the choir, fought as 
infantry in Tupper Carey's force at heavy 
cost. Locally, as yet, the storm had not 
broken ; but Poperinghe became less and less 
attractive. Casualties in the little town 
increased daily, and rumours of a general 
retirement preyed upon our spirits. But even 
in the very gravity of the situation certain 
elements of humour were discovered. The 
numbers selected by fancy for the rafts on 
which we spoke of embarking, when our 
flight reached the coast, and the imagina- 
tive information as to pleasant moorings for 
the summer months, became the fashionable 
talk. Details of delightful billets, hastily 
vacated by units of a retiring disposition, 
formed a second topic of cheerful badinage. 

On the night of April 12 some enormous 
shells dug craters the size of cottages at the 
junction of the Rue de Pots and the switch 
road. On the following day the Proven Road 
became impassable for hours on end. On 
April 16 our line was withdrawn closer to 
Ypres than ever before, dug-outs and roads 
being blown up before abandonment. On the 
26th Kemmel fell, and the great wave of 

) ) , 3 •> 

X w 



1918 107 

battle surged against the foot of the chain of 
low hills that had hitherto scarce heard an 
echo of the war. Around Poperinghe, and 
far back into the hinterland, lines of defence 
were dug and even manned. An immense 
engineering feat, no less than the construction 
of a big strategic railway from St. Momelin 
to Bergues, was swiftly and silently completed. 
Great tracts of country between Dunkirk and 
St. Omer were inundated, and the young 
crops stood like slender bulrushes amid the 
rising floods. The calamity of war fell lightly, 
however, on peasants, who lost their labours 
only for a season. Its full force came upon 
those who now filled every road with a throng, 
hapless and homeless, of every age least fitted 
for such experiences, and contriving with a 
dogged despair to burden themselves yet 
further with belongings that none but the 
poorest would thus essay to preserve. Hideous 
and detestable as trench warfare was, a war of 
movement, so glibly desired by the critics on 
both sides, has for the civilian population the 
terrors of a tornado, and tenfold its precipitancy 
and power. Yet even here there were flashes 
of fun to be had, as, for instance, in the story 


of the doings of a Scotch officer who received 
an appointment with the unique title of Official 
Persuader to the Corps. It was his diplomatic 
task to persuade those peasants who clung to 
their menaced homes that, while the British 
Army was invincible, they would themselves 
be wise to retire forthwith into France.'**' 
Rumour said — obviously untruly — that, find- 
ing the Scots tongue useless in this labour, he 
had recourse to more subtle means ; and that 
the children were bribed with centimes to 
cross the barrier into France in search of 
hypothetic sweet stores. Once there, their 
inability to return brought their parents after 

Poperinghe was now systematically evacu- 
ated. Civilians were evicted as the casualties 
among them were daily increasing, and institu- 
tions such as cinemas were closed down. The 
Officers' Club, to the great distress of Sergeant- 
Major Hutton, its manager, was closed, and 
the doors of Talbot House alone remained 
open. Already we had received notice to quit, 

* This crossing of the frontier just beyond Proven en- 
tailed exclusion from repatriation during the rest of the 

war. ■ifjl ,s?*!s^ ,4THi'> wi ^a r 

1918 109 

but this order had been postponed in operation 
through the kind offices of the A. P.M., who, 
knowing the situation on the spot, saw that 
the existence of Talbot House was at this 
juncture essential from a provost point of 
view ; for, with all the doors shut, troops still 
entering the town would be driven to disorder, 
and for the matter of that the closing of an 
institution so well known as Talbot House was 
in a real sense harmful to the general morale. 
Our staff was, however, reduced, and with 
those left to us we prepared to stand a siege. 

On Sunday, April 14, my opposite number 
from Little Talbot House in Ypres arrived 
late at night with his two orderlies and a 
strange miscellany of sacred and secular salvage. 
A few days later Dr. Magrath, of Y.M.C.A., 
Ypres, who longer than any living man survived 
residence in that amazing city, joined forces 
with us also. Between us we reorganised the 
House's work to meet the new conditions. 
The chapel was moved downstairs, entrances 
and cellars were heavily tortified — again the 
patriotic pamphlets were admirable for filling 
sandbags. One shell carried away the stage 
of the concert-hall, and two more landed in 


the garden; a bomb penetrated the water- 
conduit ; but the House continued in the 
greatest happiness to administer comfort, 
natural and supernatural, to troops still 
moving through the deserted town. The 
most valuable fittings had already been re- 
moved into safety, thanks to our friends in 
the Railway Operating Department ; so that 
if the Kaiser had succeeded in reaching the 
town suddenly one morning for breakfast, 
according to his announced intention, Talbot 
House would scarcely have provided him with 
suitable accommodation. 

During these weeks the orders for our closing 
were frequently repeated, but we put the 
telescope to the blind eye. To close, when 
there was still much to be done that there 
was no one else to do, was a tragedy which 
only the soul of a hireling could sustain. We 
took every possible precaution for the safety 
of our customers, whose gratitude increased 
as their numbers grew less. Finally, on Whit- 
Tuesday, May 21, we received imperative orders 
to leave at once ; and so, with great sadness, 
the doors of the dear old House were closed 
for the first time in their happy history. 

1918 111 

And since this tale is of the House alone, or 
at least desires to be so, there is no need here 
to follow the fortunes of the exiles. 

Of our subsequent re-opening on Septem- 
ber 30, and of certain storms in certain tea- 
cups which ensued upon our civiHan habit 
of acting for the best without orders in writing, 
the tale need not be told. In October the 
House was left almost high and dry, and 
though its work continued till January of this 
present year, when its lawful owner re- occupied 
it, those in whose service it had laboured and 
whose love it had claimed were either far 
beyond a border so long unbreakable, or across 
a bourne whence no traveller may return. Yet 
that they loved it is enough ; and that it is 
true that they did so many letters witness, and 
memories more than life- long. 

To have known these men, to have thought 
their thoughts, to have ministered in any way 
to their few necessities, to have stood to them 
as a symbol of home and joy in hours when 
they else had neither — this it was given in a 
measure to the old House to do, and to be for 
three dark years a pupil-teacher in the school 
of love. 



Bv L. F. BROWNE, Captain R.A.M.C. 

" A semely man our hoste was with-alle 


Bold of his speech and wys, and wel y taught, 
And of manhood him lakkede right naught, 
Eek therto he was right a mery man." 


But what of Boniface himself ? The good 
Prince of innkeepers would recognise mine host 
of Talbot House as not the least among his 
children. A history of the House would be 
incomplete without some delineation of the 
characteristics of the publican himself, so a 
physician has taken up the task, despite the 
objections of Boniface. 

My only qualification for the task is that for 
almost a year I was in daily contact with the 
subject of this chapter. Having a practice of 
a very suburban character among R.E.'s who 

THE inn-keepp:r. 


were building broad gauge railways, I had a 
certain amount of spare time which was devoted 
to various forms of labour in connection with 
the House. 

My first sight of Boniface was early in 
September 1916, when a little bowed old figure 
celebrated the Eucharist in the Upper Room. 
It was new to me to find one so absorbed in his 
great task that he was obviously oblivious of 
his congregation. 

He had just returned from a few months' 
convalescence at the Base, during which Talbot 
House passed through many vicissitudes. 

I had visited the House in August and found 
it practically empty. Then Neville Talbot 
appeared one Sunday and announced that a 
most wonderful padre was soon to return to 
the House which he had helped to create. 

At that Communion service Boniface ap- 
pealed for helpers. So I went and routed him 
out in the Officers' Club next morning. There I 
found that the little bowed old figure was really 
a juvenile like myself. We sat in the garden 
behind the Club and talked for hours. I dis- 
covered very soon that the situation was rather 
serious, for a fiat had gone forth that Talbot 



House was to be closed unless audited accounts 
were produced w^ithin a fortnight. Apparently 
Army Headquarters had different ideas about 
finance from those which held sway in Talbot 

But who was to do this auditing of accounts ? 
It seemed a simple undertaking at first sight, 
so I offered my services. Investigation showed 
how rash I had been ; I had rushed in where 
any sensible angel would very carefully have 
refrained from treading. The account book 
was exhibited to me with pride, not unjustifi- 
able so far as its size and material went. Within, 
it was ruled after the approved fashion of the 
modern account book. But there the re- 
semblance ceased. Genius had ignored the 
fettering lines and columns which bind and 
hamper ordinary mortals. There were five or 
six headings written across the page — '' Furni- 
ture," " Garden," " House Expenses," " Enter- 
tainments," and one or two other items which I 
have now forgotten. Then there was a column 
for receipts. In this column there continually 
occurred the item *' Found in officers' box," 
20 frs. or 100 frs., and so on. At first sight it 
appeared that a dishonest innkeeper was 


brazenly entering the results of his midnight 
researches in the baggage of his guests. 
Enquiry, however, showed that this really 
referred to the money placed in a box by the 
officers who used to stay the night at Talbot 
House in early days. This formed a consider- 
able source of revenue. 

A glance at this amazing book was followed 
by the enquiry, " I suppose you have got 
receipts corresponding to these entries?" " Oh 
yes," replied Boniface, " there is a whole cup- 
board full of them," and he flung open a 
cupboard in the wall as he spoke. Truly the 
cupboard was full — full of scraps of dirty paper 
with inscriptions in French and Flemish and 
English. Old receipts from Hazebrouck, St. 
Omer, Dunkirk, Bailleul, and Boulogne showed 
how far the range of purchase had spread. But 
there was no order or system in the whole. 

Anyhow, Army Headquarters was informed 
that the accounts were being audited and that 
was the main thing. 

A fortnight's work showed that the receipts 
produced did not approach the expenditure by 
some thousands of francs. A good many trans- 
actions had evidently taken place by cash alone. 


Audited accounts could not, alas, be produced, 
but fortunately the financial conscience at Army 
Headquarters had gone to sleep again, so all 
was well. Audited accounts were not produced 
and the House was not closed. Most satisfactory. 

But, strangely enough, further probing after 
several months revealed the fact that the House 
had been the gainer to a large extent by the 
" defalcations " of the innkeeper. 

While I am on the subject of finance I must 
mention that bogey which constantly haunted us 
when a full blown Committee came into being, 
presided over by a Quartermaster-General. 
Large purchases were constantly being made 
from Gamages, and their bills were frequently 
coming in. I would question P. B. C. very 
sternly, ''Are you sure this is all we owe to 
Gamages ?" An affirmative reply would send 
me to the Committee with the assurance that 
£30 would clear us entirely of debt so far as 
Gamages was concerned. The Olympians would 
agree to this payment, with the severe proviso 
that no more purchases should be made without 
official sanction. I was so reduced in morale that 
I was willing to promise anything. P. B. C. was 
always kept out of the way of this Committee, 


as his life was not considered safe at the hands 
of such dangerous men. A week or ten days 
would elapse, when a plaintive voice would greet 
me with : " Here's another bill from Gamages, 
but it's only a small one, £20." " But I thought 
the last bill brought us up to date ?" '* Yes, 
but this is for things which 1 ordered just before 
the Committee meeting." 

The old account book frequently contained 
the entry, "Taken from cash box, 400 frs." 
This meant that P. B. C. had managed to get a 
lift to Boulogne one fine day. The correct 
procedure on these occasions was to empty the 
cash box, and sally forth to make purchases for 
the House — the joy of acquisition was always 
worth experiencing. The results of these ex- 
peditions were always exciting, both from the 
point of view of the wrecked accounts and 
from the point of view of the wonderful things 

Talbot House presented a most perfect 
illustration of "a round peg in a round hole." 
Those who know our innkeeper in the flesh 
have realised how round the peg was. But 
rotundity was no bar to activity : while activity 
was no bar to rotundity. 


A pair of spectacles with large black rimmed 
glasses ; a short substantial figure ; a rather 
innocent expression on the kindly face — all 
these combined to make a living embodiment 
of Mr. Chesterton's famous Father Brown. 

Clothing was always a trial — buttons would 
persist in coming off, breeches would gape at 
the knees, shirt cuffs would wear out — but after 
all an iimkeeper of the highest order has no 
time to dally with such details of artificial 
civilisation, so my efforts to secure some sort 
of average tidiness were in vain. 

The House was generally a scene of great 
hilarity, for Boniface was always full of fun. 
At our tea parties in his room he would offer 
some nervous youth a box of matches, in which 
all the matches were stuck to the bottom of 
the box. Another man would strike a match 
which was only intended to smoulder. Concerts 
and debates showed the innkeeper at his best, 
when his deep voice sang rollicking songs, 
or his quaint repartee rendered the House 
weak with mirth. Always ready for a rag, he 
found kindred spirits in many men who felt 
the need of letting off steam in practical jokes. 
I remember going with him on May-day 1917 


to Bergues, where he ran riot in the quiet old 
town, and might have been seen walking 
through the streets carrying a wooden horse 
which he was taking back to Poperinghe. ^^ 
Some of the notices of the House have been 
mentioned, but I must add one which is well 
worth recording. A sapper had been helping 
him with some job in his room one day, and by 
mistake had left his own penknife behind and 
had taken that belonging to Boniface. Next 
day a notice appeared : 

" If the Sapper who helped me yesterday, and left 
his penknife in my room, will apply to me he will 
receive two apologies — 

1. An apology for the trouble I am giving him. 

2. The apology for a knife which he left behind."" 

His energies and activities were so great that 
he never rested. Whether he was making his 
weekly pilgrimage to the " slums " to visit his 
beloved batteries, or whether he was actually 
in the House, his work never ceased. Occasion- 
ally disaster overtook him in the shape of " a 
temperature," and then my turn came. There 
would be a battle from which I emerged 
triumphant, while Boniface retired to bed. 
Our great dread was '* evacuation to the Base," 


so every endeavour was made to prevent his 
being sent to a Medical unit. On two or three 
occasions I looked after him myself, but once 
the kindly CO. of a Field Ambulance, which 
was billeted close by, lent us a nursing orderly 
twice a day. But Boniface could never under- 
stand why the stream of visitors should not 
continue even though he was in bed. " Gunner 
Smith is coming down from Ypres and I shall 
be very disappointed if 1 do not see him ; and 
there is that splendid Sergeant Jones of the 
R.E.'s who is coming in to tea." In the end 
I had to put a notice on his door forbidding 
anyone to enter. Then Boniface turned his 
face to the wall in anguish of spirit, and I, 
feeling that it had been better if I had never 
been born, sat in the next room and read 

To make quite sure that no one could disturb 
him when his temperature was about 105, I 
put the old " General " on duty at his door to 
keep out anyone who might ignore the notice. 
On returning in the evening I was touched to 
find the General *' asleep at his post " in a chair. 
He had probably been up all the night before, 
but he wakened up covered with confusion, 


rather feeling that he had let down the tradition 
of The Buffs. However, when 1 came back at 
the same time next evening I was seized by 
the arm in the dim light, while a hoarse voice 
whispered : " You can't go in, Sir ; it's the 
Doctor's orders." It was flattering to feel that 
my instructions were being so faithfully carried 
out after the lapse of the previous day. 

During one of these spells in bed the Corps 
Commander of the period arrived on a surprise 
inspection. He was an officer of sanitary 
instincts, and I had the pleasure of taking him 
round. He made scathing remarks on the 
insanitary condition of the House, as evidenced 
by an empty matchbox lying in the garden. 
I sympathised with him most heartily, and 
experienced all the delights of being '* Army " 
and not " Corps," so that my connection with 
Talbot House was entirely unofficial and irre- 
sponsible. Then I suggested that he might 
visit the patient, and the thrilling spectacle was 
witnessed of a very self-possessed publican 
being visited by a rather bashful Corps Com- 
mander whose bedside manner was a trifle 

Only one who had no idea of time or space 


or money could possibly have carried on at 
Talbot House. P. B. C. regarded time as an 
arbitrary division of the day ; space was better 
ignored. One of his favourite dicta, on which 
he acted with great fidelity, was " the only way 
to arrive in time is to start out late : if you start 
punctually you will probably never arrive." 
Occasionally he actually proved this by 

But it was this spirit which enabled him to 
cope with hundreds of men without ever making 
anyone feel that he was de trop. Many a time 
I have sat in that room of his at Talbot House 
and watched a succession of men coming in, 
many of them tired and jaded after a tramp 
from ** Wipers." " My dear old man, how ripping 
to see you." Boniface had the true spirit of 
hospitality which put the most awkward man 
at his ease, and made him feel that here was 
one who really cared nothing for a man's stripes 
but would be the same to all. Many a man 
sore from some injustice, or homesick and 
weary, has received the cup of cold water in 
" His Name " in that lower room, just as 
thousands received the "Cup of Blessing" from 
the same hands in the Upper Room. 


How much this welcome was appreciated by 
those who received it is well shown by the 
thousands of men who flocked to the House 
every week. Shy lads from Devon and 
Somerset, men from Northumberland and 
Durham, awkward, but keen and intelligent, 
self-possessed Londoners, men from Australia, 
Canada, and New Zealand, all fell under the 
same spell. Truly love is all powerful, and it 
was the power of an unselfish love for them 
which brought these men back to the House 
over and over again. I remember one hot 
Sunday afternoon in June while a lot of us 
were sitting at tea in the House, a great burly, 
red-haired Australian gunner arrived on a push 
bike from Armentieres. He had only come to 
see the padre for a few minutes. As a matter 
of fact he had exactly half-an-hour, which he 
had to share with other people, but he went 
away with a light in his eyes which mirrored 
the feelings within. 

It is wonderful how the childlike spirit 
appeals to men — or at any rate to the best men. 
It seems to have the power of drawing out the 
very best that every man possesses. An 
infinite belief in human nature, especially in 

'/ \ /. 


the men of the B.E.F., enabled P. B. C. to get 
into the real " back-shop " of most men's minds. 
He was able to lift them up out of the sordid- 
ness of their surroundings and set them on 
their feet again. He was able to take them to 
the top of the House as the sisters did to Chris- 
tian in "the Palace, the name of which was 
Beautiful," and show them " the most pleasant 
country called Immanuel's Land." Indeed, 
Talbot House was to the B.E.F. in the Salient 
what the House Beautiful was to the pilgrims 
in Bunyan's wonderful " Similitude of a 

From the House many a man, after resting 
awhile in the chamber which is called Peace, 
went on his way ready to fight victoriously 
against Apollyon, the Prince of the Powers of 

The B.E.F. rightly inculcated in men the 
idea of caution, but at Talbot House we trans- 
literated the familiar French warning and wrote 
up : " Plaisez-vous, confiez-vous, les oreilles de 
TAmi vous ecoutent." 

And Boniface followed his men about and 
visited them whenever he could. He felt that 
his work at Talbot House was too safe, so he 


did what he could to share the hardships and 
dangers of his customers. 

The spirit of laughter and prayer filled the 
House, and the innkeeper showed to his guests 
the qualities of the Friend and Lord of the 

Is it too much to hope that London may 
have its Talbot House with Boniface to 
welcome all comers and cheer them on their 

Footnote by Boniface. — Confusion covers my face as I 
read Chapter X. for the first time in proof. It found its 
way in unknown to me by a kindly conspiracy between 
Dr. Browne, Lieutenant E. G. White, and the publishers ; 
and it would be churlish to eject it now. But that fisher- 
man deserves to fail who allows his eager shadow to stand 
between the sunlight and the stream. — P. B. C. 



Most of the notices that at various times dis- 
figured the board in the hall of the House have 
very properly perished. Here, however, are a few 

P. B. C. 


Welcome yourself to Talbot House. We don't put 
"salve'' mats on the doorstep, but have a salvage 
dump next door to make up for it. But we want you 
to feel it is true of your arrival just the same. For 
you are surely not one of those who — 

(1) Imagine the House has an off-licence for maga- 
zines, stationery, etc. — e.g.^ I put a current number of 
Nash's magazine in a cover, heavily stamped, on the 
first floor last week. In twenty-four hours the cover 
was empty. This is how misanthropes are made. 

(2) Imagine we have the Y.M.C.A. or some unlimited 


funds at our back. At present we are trying hard (like 
my Sam Browne does) to make two ends meet. Three 
noble Divisions (55th, 39thj 38th) help us from their 
funds. But otherwise we are in a bad way. My tie-pin 
was in pawn long ago : and even the House is in Pop. 

Writing materials for use in the Housejcost some £6 
a month, so that he who departs with his pockets full 
of envelopes is guilty of what Mr. Punch calls " Teuton 

(3) Woe worth the imbecile, who begins three letters 
one after another on three sheets of paper, with a fourth 
to try nibs and fancy spelling on ; and with one large 
boot on a fifth sheet, and the other on a pad of blotting- 
paper, splashes ink about like a cuttle-fish (is it ?), and 
draws a picture (libellous, we hope) of " my darling 
Aggie " on a sixth sheet, and then remembers that he 
really came in to play billiards. 


The House aims at reminding you a little tiny bit of 
"your ain folk."" Hence pictures, flowers, and freedom- 
Help to strengthen the illusion of being of a Club-able 

This is not a G.R.O., but just a G.R.O.U.S.E. by 
the poor old Chaplain. 




1. The Irishman : 

" Och, docther dear, I'm kilt intoirely." 


% The Scotchman : 

" Ah'm no varra weel the 


3. The Efiglishman : 

" I don't know what can 

be wrong with 

me. / 

can't eat."" 


In honour of the return of Paddy (Pte. Flynn) from 
leave to his post on the staff of the House, the following 
chestnut is issued to all concerned : 

Scene : Irish parade-ground. 

Drill Sergeant : " Now then, Rafferty, get those 
big feet of yours in line, can't you !'*' 

Pte. Rafferty : " Arrah ! Sergeant, they're no my 
feet at all, at all. They're Pte. Murphy's in the back 



Have you been formally introduced to — 

Kitten, one, white, camouflaged. Belgique by parent- 
age, but British (as the catechism says) by adoption 
and grace. It enjoys the war enormously, and is far 
too busy getting dirty to have time to spare for getting 
clean. It has a limited but vivacious repertoire of 
performances and has betrayed several Scotsmen into 
forgetting themselves so far as to smile. 

The Love Birds. Their names " Hunter " and 
" Bunter " are, as Sam Weller said of the sausage, 
" wrapt in mystery.'"* Hunter is plain in appearance ; 
Bunter is spot. They came from Boulogne in a five ton 
lorry, and do nothing in particular, but do it very well. 

The Jackpie or Magdaw. His name is Jacko ; and 
his diet bully beef and collar studs. He came from a 
reserve trench at Elverdinghe : we clipped his wings 
on arrival, since when he flies much better than before. 
No ! we decline to slit his tongue, in the hope that he 
will talk articulately. He talks Welsh perfectly at 

April, 19] 7. 



On the literary principle by which Mrs. Beeton is 
said to begin her chapter on the cooking of apples with 
a brief reference to the Fall of Man, this notice should 
open with some reference to the anti-episcopal tendencies 
displayed by rats in the lamentable food-hoarding case 
of the late Bishop Hatto. 

But our need is too urgent for literary allusions. 

What the House has to face is a plague of rats, all 
of them heavy or welter-weight, against Don Whisker- 
andos, our cat, who is featherweight only, so can't be 
expected to make good. 

Wanted therefore ; the loan of a good ratting terrier^ 
ferrets^ or other rat strafing rodent. A rat seen last 
night measured about four feet from stem to stern. 


A handsome, kindly, and middle-aged individual, 
who prefers to remain anonymous, finds that his neck 
is growing thicker during long years of warfare, with 
the result that seventeen-inch shirts and seventeen and 
a half collars produce a perpetual strangulation. If this 
should catch the eye of any gentleman, upon whose 
neck the yoke of the Army life is producing the 
contrary effect, an exchange of wardrobe would be to the 
welfare of both. Address, P. B. C. F., The Office, T. H. 



Scene 1 : Half way down the garden. Two chairs and 
garden table ; with tin board and draughtsmen thereon; 
also a rubbish box in foreground. 

Enter two gunners with two mugs of tea and a paper 
bag of fruit. One gunner upsets draughtsmen on to 
the grass, and deposits mug on table. The other amends 
this procedure by seating himself on the ground, turning 
the half- full rubbish box upside down, and placing his 
mug thereon. 

Finally, enter Padre : tableau vivant. 

Scene 2 : The first floor writing-room. Both windows 
tightly closed. Various literary gentlemen busily en- 
gaged in caligraphy. 

Enter two R.A.M.C. representatives, afraid of too 
generous a supply of fresh air on the balcony. Each 
carries three magazines, and two books from the library. 
These they deposit among the inkpots, pens, and blotting- 
paper, and proceed to absorb in a slow but expansive 

Enter more persons desiring to write letters. (Curtain.) 


By "I"o"U"Corps. 

For the next few days, the total staff of the House 

is five, including Jimmy, the presiding magician of the 

maconachie. A reasonable complement for the House, 


hall, and garden is eleven, including the canteen. So, if 
the antimacassars aren''t watered, or the asphidistras 
dusted, or the pot-pourri jars distributed for a few days, 
don't think "there's something rotten in the state of 


A tidy draft of reinforcements in woolies — i.e., socks, 
etc. — has reached T. H. from the ever-generous Mrs. 
Fry of Bristol. 

Applications for the same should be made to the 
Chaplain. All queues prohibited by Sir A. Yapp. 
Allotment, one sock per battalion. 

January 14, 1918. 



The Kaiser wirelesses : 

As our good old German Shakespeare says, in the 
" Merchant of Vienna '**' (sic !) 

" A plague on both your Houses." 


HiLAiRE Belloc remarks, in his monumental work 
"The War Hour by Hour, from every Possible and 
Impossible, Human and Inhuman Standpoint." (Vol. 
666, p. 999.) 

''The psychological reasons which led to our long 
tenure of the Salient are now increasingly apparent to 
all soldiers ; they were not merely international, but 
highly domestic y 

Henry V. (per the late Lewis Waller) declaims : 
" Talbot . . . shall be in their flowing cups freshly 

Lord Northcliffe dictates : 

" Whatever sinister influences may operate at home, 
patriotic ardour is, as ever, the temper of our vast 
Armies. So eager are our gallant men to meet the 
foe, that 1 myself have seen great queues of men 
formed up in communication trenches, unable to find 
room in the front line. The fierce light of Mars gleams 
in every eye. Thus it has been found necessary to 
establish counter-attractions to counter-attacks behind 
the lines." 

Horatio Bottomley speaks out : 

" When I left the shell-swept area of General Head- 
quarters, the dull reverberation of machine guns made 
me, like an old soldier, wrap my gas helmet closer 
round my knees. Haig — you may trust him — I say, you 
may trust him — said to me : ' Keep your napper down, 
old man ; think what your life means to England.' " 


"On our way back, we motored through a small 
town, which the General beside me especially asked me 
not to specify to my two million readers. We flashed 
past the gloomy doorway of a miserable House in a 
narrow street. A smug and sour-faced parson stood 
in the doorway of this so-called Soldiers' Club, with a 
bundle of tracts in one hand and a subscription list in 
the other. Mark my words. You know the type. 
The so-called Church has not stirred a finger anywhere 
in the war-zone for anyone.""* 

From the Association of Licensed and Un- 
licensed ESTAMINETS: 

" We deeply resent the ruinous competition of this 
detestable House, which wounds our tenderest suscepti- 
bilities. The place must be put Out of Bounds at once. 
Verboten Engang." 

From an American Ally : 

" Gee. Some shanty. What ? If we'd only known, 
guess we'd have chipped in three falls back.'" 



January 25, 1918. 

Isn't this an Officers' 

Club r 

* A fortnight after this was posted, the great Horatio un- 
wittingly avenged himself by a painfully laudatory article on 
the work of Army Chaplains. 


Scene : 

The Wipers' 

Road : any time after dark. 

Enter Wayfarers (1st 

) and (2nd) 

1st W. : 

"Bill, 'ere^s 

a riddle 

for you. 

What is 

a lorry?" 

2nd W. 

: " Give it up 


1st W. 

"A lorry 's 

a thing 

what goes 

the other 



Owing to the descent of a meteorite* upon the 
electric lighting plant, the House is temporarily re- 
duced to the oil and grease expedients of a bygone 
age. In regard to the former, gentlemen will please 
desist from turning the wick upwards, as the augmen- 
tation of the illumination thus secured is extremely 
temporary, and results in a soot bath and a cracked 
chimney. In regard to the latter, remember what 
Shakespeare says about its illuminant attractiveness, 
and please draw the blinds. 

October 2, 1917. 

* Our electric light engine had bad luck in the winter of 
1917-18, and was hit by two shells and a bomb successively 
within two months. 




Take a watch, not your own, tie a string on to it, 
swing it round your head three times, and then let 
go, saying to the owner : " That's gone West."" 

The points of the compass being thus established, 
you proceed rapidly in the safest direction. 

P. B. C. 


This is a splendid story, really requiring a Scotch 

Once upon a time. Doctor Geikie, of Edinburgh, was 
crossing the Atlantic on the same ship as a loud-voiced, 
foul-mouthed American. One rough day, when every- 
one was confined to the smoking-room, the American 
told a series of filthy stories, and then turned insolently 
to the old Doctor and said : 

" I just reckon you haven't added much to our fun, 

" A'weel," said Doctor Geikie, " I'll tell you a story 
the noo. Once upon a time, there was a puir wee birrd 
that had his nest in a tree by the roadside ; and one 
fine day, after a horse passit by, he came to feed on the 
droppings. An' when he had his fu', he just skippit 


back to the tree and began to sing. But a boy came 
by wi' a wee bit gun, and shot him i' the lug as he sang." 

Dead silence, broken by the American. 

" Waal, Doctor, if that is the best you can do, I 
guess we don't think much of it. None of the boys 
see any damned point in your tale at all." 

"AVeel," said Doctor Geikie, "the moral, sir, is 
surely plain enough to you. If you're full of s — t, 
dinna brag about it." j^^ Q^ 

per P.B.C. 


The number of otherwise intelligent human beings 
who hang about the hall, reading silly notices, and 
catching well deserved colds, is most distressing. 

An occasional straggler drags himself up the staircase, 
generally in futile search for the canteen, which confronts 
him in the garden. 

Otherwise oil and fuel upstairs waste their sweetness, 
and the rooms and pictures their welcome. 


As Kipling so finely says : 

" What shall they know of Talbot House 
Who only the ground-floor know ?" 


''to move or not to move^ that is the question." 

Owing to the inconsiderate retirement of our old 
neighbours, the Boche, Toe. H. is in a pretty fix. If 
we move — e.g.^ to Courtrai — we may be high and dry 
by the time we have reached it with all our lorry-loads 
of belongings. Also, if the period of demobilisation 
is really at hand, this may be an important salvage 
centre. And once we vacate the House, we shall never 
get it again. 

Briefly, therefore, T. H. will remain here for the 

For if the Boche goes to Brussels, we shan't cut any 
ice in Courtrai. 

Or if the Boche goes to Blazes, we shall be wanted 

Q. E. D. 

But we expect you to get down here somehow, and 
see us sometimes. You really must try. 

October 20, 1918. 



Five thousand of these whizzbangs were sent 
out in December, 1918. 

ANYTHING may be written on this side, the other, by the law 
of Ancient Lights, is the private playground of the long-suffering 

/ vote the proposed booklet on Talbot House 

(sound ) 1 
a J . , \ scheme. 

I will I E™ N/6 to j J*^ ^jj J it. 

(scrounge) ^^ ' 

y a means I 'p jj^ should be set up in Town. 
On no account] ^ 

I won't i , f . J h to help, 

[leave a stone unturned] ^ 

XT . 4. r> (exactly right. 

You ve ffot my Rank i . . *^ u i 

° -^ (unutterably wrong. 

I am now a ll^^'Jf ;9''''P/'?H ^""^ ^""^^ ^"^ ^^ discharged 
(tield Marshal J soon. 

This address will find me i \. I the ] f^^^ [ come home. 

Road ,,,,, , 

Town [never] 

County Sig. 



A FEW words of explanation must introduce 
the article by Dr. Magrath on Little Talbot 
House. The establishment of this daughter 
house in Ypres was the tardy fruit of a hope 
we had long shared ; and he, with his unrivalled 
knowledge of the town, in which he managed 
to hve longer than even Town-Major Scott, 
did more than any of us to make the dream 
come true. The old House had always a 
number of faithful friends in Ypres, and early 
in 1916 the Military Foot Police on No. 10 
Bridge ran a kind of cocoa tavern for sundry 
wayfarers, for which a generous friend of 
the old House provided the raw materials. 
Divisional chaplains held services in the 
Infantry Barracks, in a cellar in the Rue de 
Dixmude, and in the house which subsequently 
became ours ; and in '16 and 17 I held weekly 
services on Fridays in the Prison, where the 
Town-Major's headquarters were. But co- 





ordination was difficult, and concentration in 
any one spot was plainly inadvisable. In the 
autumn of '17, however, the town — or what 
was left of it — became comparatively healthy, 
and the following notice appeared on Talbot 
House board : 


Was born yesterday in Ypres. It stands (more 
or less) in Rue de Lille, and was once a large lace 
factory. The red brick frontage on the road is 
quite imposing, but the back premises are not quite 
what they were. However, there are six rooms 
upstairs, and a convenient and capacious cellar. 

We are sending up some stuff from the old 
House, and passers-by must look in and see Mr. 
Goodwin, the chaplain in charge. 

Church tithe for the present may be paid in 
kind, the kind being roofing-iron and sandbags. 

Gas and water already laid on. 


The house we secured was one of the only 
two still standing in the Rue de Lille — the 
Post Office being the other. The first lorry load 
of furniture we brought up was blown to bits 
by a direct hit on the room in which we had 
dumped it, a few hours after its arrival. We 


moistened the lips, and brought up a second 
load. With this the House opened, and from 
November to April fulfilled its task ideally, 
under conditions increasingly dangerous. One 
morning, when I arrived on a visit, the House 
was literally ringed with new shell-holes ; and 
even as Pettifer and I approached it, part of 
the outer wall, weakened by continual concus- 
sions, fell of its own accord. Yet within, the 
work went on uninterruptedly. A few days 
before the evacuation we were still hopefully 
building and sandbagging the new hall. Then 
came the withdrawal from Paschendaele, and 
the front line was drawn closer to Ypres than 
ever before. With machine guns posted in the 
streets, the town billets were evacuated by 
order ; and Goodwin and his staff arrived at 
Poperinghe late on one Sunday night. After- 
wards, he went to Arras, to be chaplain of 
St. George's Club.^^ 

P. B. C. 


It was somewhat cheerless in Ypres in August, 
1917, and on one of the most cheerless days at 
the end of that month I was introduced by the 
146th Battery to a padre who had just arrived. 
He looked cheerful ; that was my first impres- 

 Now (September, 1919) St. George's Club in Paris. 


sion : he wasn't a non-smoker or a temperance 
fanatic ; those were my second impressions : 
he seemed to fit in ; that was my third impres- 
sion. I didn't know I was meeting Little 
Talbot House in embryo ; in fact, I had never 
heard of it, nor had anyone else, though a few 
people had been interested in getting something 
of the kind going. But Ypres at the moment 
was not propitious. Later on the padre — his 
name was R. J. Goodwin — after migrating to 
various dug-outs — began to talk about Little 
Talbot House, and as a preliminary step came 
to live with me in a vast underground fastness 
under the Lille Gate Cemetery. Negotiations 
for a suitable place resulted in getting the 
Lace-School in the Lille Road allotted, and the 
business began. Heaven knows — I do not — 
whence came the furniture. Some was pinched 
from the parent House : the canvas, the chairs 
and tables, the paint, the doors, the electric 
light fittings (oh yes, we were civilised before 
the war stopped ; now we use candles I) et tout 
fa. 1 only know that they did come, that they 
got sorted, erected and fixed. I remember as 
in a dream, one or two hectic afternoons divided 
between bumping one's head on the beams in 
the cellar, and standing perilously on a rickety 
ladder trying to reach something which one 
obviously couldn't reach. This consumed most 
of the month of November ; in December 
R. J. G. " moved in " (i.e., his valise was carried 
down the road). 

Little Talbot House was a going concern, 


and it did go. The rooms upstairs were 
canteen and reading rooms ; downstairs in 
the "catacombs" were the chapel — it took 
one right back to Rome in a.d. 70 — and the 
sleeping billets and kitchen. (Later on, when 
things were quieter, the new chapel got going 
upstairs, but that was not till March, 1918). 
At night the chapel was curtained off, and part 
became a reading room. 

Of those who found comfort — spiritual and 
mental — there, of those who came with troubles, 
who came to ask questions on every conceivable 
subject, who fed, read, and even slept there, 
R. J. G. could tell you himself. Let this only 
be recorded by one who was a " gadget," that 
there was not a man who came there who did 
not go away cheered and brightened, not one 
who did not love R. J. G., not one who did 
not return when he could. 

It was (as time goes) a brief episode ; three 
months almost covered it ; Low Sunday, 1918, 
saw the House empty, Paschendaele evacuated, 
and the Bosches advancing fast on Ypres. 
Yes, brief but bright; and only the God in 
Heaven knows what fruit that three months 
sowing produced. 

R. J. G., here's luck to you now and always. 
As a helper of lame dogs over stiles, you were 
one of the best ; I and hundreds more shall 
never forget you and that little oasis in the 
lAlle Road. 

C. J. M. 



Early in the second year of the war, when 
the Ypres salient had settled down to what, 
for it, was comparative quiet after the great 
battles of October, 1914, and the following 
April, the little Belgian town of Poperinghe 
became the hub of that part of the universe. 
Here the battalions, resting after their turn in 
the trenches, sought their recreation, did their 
shopping, and were cleansed from the mud and 
grime of the trenches in one or other of the 
various divisional baths. 

The town catered for a great number of 
troops ; for, in addition to the battalions and 
batteries from the firing-line of the Salient and 
to the south of it as far as Messines, there 
were, billeted and camped in or near it, the 
various departmental corps, hospitals, aircraft 
and anti-aircraft units, with most of the 
Brigade, Divisional and Corps Headquarters. 
Besides all these, the station was rail-head, 
which ensured a floating population in addition 
to what we might term its permanent military 

The soldiers' recreation was well looked after 
— we had a cinema, a pierrot troupe (the famed 
Sixth Division " Fancies "), a canteen, football 
grounds, etc. — yet a need was soon felt for an 
institution which would cater for officer and 



soldier alike; which would also serve as a 
parish church and institute where quiet times 
as well as cheery ones could be enjoyed ; and 
also where those who felt their need of that 
help and comfort, which, above all, can sustain 
and hearten in the day of battle, as well as 
during the dreary and comfortless round of 
trench duty, could find a place set apart for 
quiet prayer and communion. 

One of the Sixth Division chaplains set 
himself to the task of satisfying this need. 
He had himself, in former days, held a com- 
mission and seen active service in one of our 
most famous regiments, and therefore knew 
the soldier and his kind better than most. 
The result was that, through his efforts, aided 
by the military authorities, a large house was 
acquired in the Rue de I'Hopital, Poperinghe, 
which was suitably fitted up, and where a 
resident chaplain and staff* were installed. It 
was named "Talbot House" after its originator, 
and opened on December 15, 1915. It at once 
became one of the institutions of the B.E.F., 
and its hospitable doors were never closed from 
the date of opening until after the conclusion 
of hostilities. 

Many are the officers and men — the writer 
among them — who can look back with grati- 
tude and deep appreciation to the happy times 
spent at Talbot House — the concerts, tea- 
parties, cheery gatherings, jolly talks, and 
Christmas carols — and the memories of the 
peaceful early morning services in the beautiful 


little chapel, the upper room under the roof, 
will remain a lifelong happiness. 

A. H. B.-D. 

Once commanding First Battalion 
Leicester Regiment, 


The bounds of Poperinghe were not the 
bounds of Talbot House. 

It would, perhaps, be accurate to say that 
the T.H. atmosphere was strongest in and 
around the ancient town, but wherever one 
might be in the salient a man, if he so desired, 
could get a whiff of its healthy gas. 

The writer and his battery were first sub- 
jected to an attack of T.H. gas on a certain 
Sunday in September, 1916. 

That well-known figure, the incumbent of 
Talbot House, in the course of his wanderings, 
had buttonholed a gunner Q.M.S. in a waggon 
line near Vlamertinghe. "Would the Q.M.S. 
get a few men together for service on the 
following Sunday — ^just a voluntary service to 
be held under the lee of a hedge. He knew 
what was meant, didn't he ?" 

The Q.M.S., being a man of action, went to 
the adjutant of the brigade, with the result 
that at 2.30 p.m. of a hot Sunday afternoon 
a brigade church parade of "all ranks that 
could be spared " was held in the waggon lines. 

For nearly an hour we waited in the hot sun 


until, patience exhausted, we became more and 
more un-Christian in our thoughts, and our 
attitude, from being at least neutral, became 
distinctly hostile towards all padres, and to 
this one in particular. 

About 3.25 a perspiring, rotund, and some- 
what confused cleric arrived — cheerful in spite 
of the black looks of the congregation — and 
the service began. 

As it proceeded, most of us felt that there 
w^as something about this service that one too 
often misses in the ordinary church parade — 
an indefinable homeliness, a sort of genuine 
friendliness — and we wanted another, but not 
a compulsory service. 

No more parade services were held, but 
from that Sunday onwards for the better part 
of a year the batteries of that brigade received 
the help and felt the influence of Talbot House 
even to the furthest limits of the parish, and, 
if the truth be told, outside the parish alto- 

If you wend your way down the Vlamer- 
tinghe-Ypres road for about three-quarters 
of a mile and then look to your left, you will 
see in the middle of that dreary wilderness a 
cluster of farm buildings in tolerably good 
repair. This is or was '* Cat Farm," the then 
habitat of the H.-Q. of the 141st (East Ham) 
Heavy Battery. 

There, every Thursday night, P. B. C. held 
a church service in the old barn and afterwards 
talked to the men, and every Friday morning 


he held a Communion service in a wonderful 
little chapel fitted up in the granary ; and from 
thence he went to the Ypres asylum (then 
tenanted by a detached section of the battery), 
where another short service took place. 

Who can tell the value of those simple and 
homely services? I am sure few of us will 
forget them. 

From this battery P. B. C. gradually ex- 
tended his sphere of activity to other units 
in the brigade, and, though it was seldom that 
the gunners could get back to Poperinghe, 
when they did have the opportunity of a visit 
to Talbot House, they all felt sure of a warm 
welcome and a kind word from a true friend. 

Several of the officers of 141st Battery went 
off to take command of other batteries, and 
wherever they went, provided they remained 
in the salient, there the indefatigable padre 
was sure to follow them, and their new bat- 
teries were gathered in to the ever-increasing 
flock of Talbot House. 

In May, 1917, after thirteen months in the 
line, 141st Battery went out to rest at Wissant, 
near Calais — thither we were followed by 
P. B. C. — back again to the salient at the 
end of May, in action at Reigersburg Chateau, 
thence to Kruisstraat, and finally to Dormy 
House at Zillebeke for the July 31 "push." 
Wherever we went we never lost touch with 
our padre. 

Towards the end of September, 1917, the 
battery, after considerable rough handling by 


the Boche, left the saUent, and, except for a 
few days at the end of the summer of 1918, 
did not return ; but many of its members have 
kept up correspondence with our wonderful 
little chaplain. They still feel his influence, 
and remember with gratitude his visits — visits 
made unfailingly, sometimes under shell fire, 
sometimes during a gas bombardment ; services 
held now in a barn, now in a dug-out, once on 
the sands at Wissant, and occasionally in a 

To those of our readers who, glancing 
through the above article, and who never 
having come under Clayton's magnetic in- 
fluence would think the article to be more 
of the nature of a biography than an account 
of an institution — to these I would say that, 
although the bricks and mortar might bear 
the name '' Talbot House," the soul and spirit 
of the institution was and always will be 
Philip Clayton. 



To many of those who in the years 1915- 
1919 perforce sojourned a while, more or less 
prolonged, in the Ypres salient, and to others 
whose war service took them to the little town 
familiarly known as " Pop," one memory will 
often recur — of a stately mansion in the main 
street, whose doors were open to all in khaki. 
And inside the weary wayfarer from perhaps 


the Canal Bank or " U " camp, or Dickebusch, 
or back from " Blighty," found a real " home 
from home," and a welcome from that best 
of pals whose spirit suffused all the place. 
Were we famished, the tea-urn and those 

perennial cakes of M saved our lives ; did 

we want "fifty up," the miniature table was 
seldom idle ; did we remember that letter 
home which hadn't been written, here, in the 
language of the French reading-book, were 
"the pen, the ink, and the paper"; if we 
thirsted for literature, the library (when it was 
not crowded out) bade us come and choose, 
but not forget to inscribe in the "lent, not 
lost" book. Some of us waxed eloquent in 
debate on every subject under the sun save 
those forbidden by immemorial usage or 
" K. R.," and for many the rafters of the 
recreation -room rang with the echoes of 
" Good-bye-ee " and a host of other tunes. 
Which of us will ever forget those cheery tea- 
parties, when, no matter how full the room, 
there was always space for new-comers ; when 
we ate and talked and smoked and chaffed, for 
was it not written over the portal, " All rank 
abandon, ye who enter here"! And then at 
the top of the House, the apex of the life, as 
of the visible building, of Talbot House, the 
little chapel where we met, whether just " two 
or three gathered together" or crowding the 
room to overflowing, for the simple service. 

May the spirit of comradeship which grew 
and throve within those walls long continue. 


whether in the new Talbot House, of which 
we dream in London, or wherever Briton and 
Anzac, Canadian and South African, meet in 
the years to be. 

G. Brimley Bowes, Major, 
Chairman, Talbot House Committee^ 1917-18. 

Cambridge, May, 1919. 


One of the j oiliest feelings I know is to find 
that you haven't utterly forgotten how to do 
something you've not done for years. There's 
a subtle moral value, for instance, in the dis- 
covery that you can still play indifferent 
billiards ; your very miss-cue has a precious 
personal flavour. You remember that, some- 
where tucked away under the everlasting 
khaki and the eternal sameness of badges and 
numerals, is a thing called *'me," which is 
somehow different from all the other things 
called "you." One of the best turns you can 
do for a man is to give him a chance of ex- 
periencing this feeling. It keeps him alive. 

That is what Talbot House was always 
doing. Books once familiar nodded from 
their shelves, reminding you, with comforting 
flattery, that you were still part of their world. 
A deep chair almost embraced you — and you 
woke with a start, rubbing the dreams from 
your eyes. There's a wealth of solace for the 


mind in a real chair, a sense of possession 
which is almost regal. These things are 
symbols. They were a real part of the 
scheme ; they helped you to feel that you 
were not just a cog in the machine of war, 
but a person with likes and dislikes, a standard 
of comfort, and, oddest of all, a mind ! In 
their degree they, too, ministered consolation. 

There's nothing like a debate for shaking off 
mental cramp. To an old hand, condemned 
for years to the silence of the ranks or the 
boredom of shouting phrases which you mayn't 
vary by a hair's breadth, it is almost a fierce joy. 
There's a moment of horrid trembling at the 
knees when you first rise, and then you plunge 
headlong. Happy is he who, after a few 
fumbling sentences, falls unconsciously into 
his stride, and dear to his heart is the applause 
with which a generous audience rewards the 
effort, however " footling." This, too, we owed 
to Talbot House. 

My excuse for the following story must be 
that, if I had the wit to do it justice, it holds 
an element of humour. It was not of set 
purpose that I found myself pledged to stop 
a gap. I had been gazing absent-mindedly at 
the announcement of a debate, on which the 
opposer's name had been newly erased — even 
debates must yield to the necessities of war. 
Suddenly I felt a pressure on my arm, kindly, 
persuasive, but infinitely compelling. Some- 
one suggested — oh ! so tactfully — that I was 
exactly the person he was in search of, and 


hinted that I might yet save a difficult situa- 
tion. It's horribly '* intriguing " to be wanted 
as an individual and not just as "one other 
ranks." There's a subtle flattery about it 
which scatters objections and modesties, like 
the paving-stones of the Grande Place before 
the snub and solid nose of an 8-inch "A. P." 
Of course, I yielded. Can you show me a man 
who didn't ? 

Two days later, as I crawled self-consciously 
through the ever-open door, I'd have given a 
week's pay to get out of it. My head w^as 
spinning like a top ; my knees were a striking 
illustration of the " make-and-break " action 
of the armature of a Service " buzzer." 
Thoughts I had none. 

It consoled me a little to find that the 
debate was in the open air. The chairman's 
" Order ! order !" produced a horrid silence. 
My opponent, calm, confident, persuasive, piled 
up argument upon argument. My brain reeled. 
I covered an old envelope with frenzied jottings 
in a vain attempt at coherence. All too soon 
he sat down, smothered in applause. I heard 
my own name. I rose, clutching the arm of 
my chair. 

The imps that had taken possession of me 
did a war-dance on my brain — a crew of merry 
rebels. I swallowed vigorously — and plunged. 
I shall never know what I said. My opponent 
afterwards compared my effusion to " a seance 
by Mrs. Besant " ! I don't know whether that 
was meant as a compliment or a protest. . . . 


The war-dance stopped, and I sat down. The 
rest of the evening is indistinct. I have a 
vision of a hundred men, at a word of command 
from the chairman, flocking over to my side 
of the House, whether with intent to mob me, 
or to give me much-needed support, I could 
hardly say. 

I reached home safely. Next day people 
came and asked to borrow books about it. 1 
assured them that for years I'd read nothing 
but London Opinion or at best John Bull. 
They looked a little hurt. I hope I was nice 
to them. They wouldn't tell me what I had 
said. That, patient* [impatient] reader, is the 
most accurate account I can give of an event 
which will always be a mystery to me. On 
one point I am clear — in my immeasurable 
debt to Talbot House, I must include a most 
remarkable experience. 

Hf * * m * 

Perhaps, for the honour of the House, I 
should add a word of explanation. I had not 
tasted that evening of the waters of forgetful- 
ness, but the night before I had unexpectedly 
been treated to a double dose of T.A.B. 

John H. Nicholson. 

* Strike out word inapplicable. 



{Reprinted with permission from " The Direct Hit.") 


Voices of many soldiers, 
And plenteous light ; 
Warmth, comfort and a shelter 
Out of the night. 
How everyone seems happy, 
And all their faces bright. 


Oh, pretty painted lady 
That looks out from yon frame. 
You're more to me than canvas ; 
More than an artist's name. 

There's something in your smile, dear, 
That calls to me to come ; 
You grace my mother's table 
At home I at home ! 


There is no balcony above the blue 
Soft lapping waters of a still lagoon ; 
Where maidens wonder if their lads be tru , 
And will come soon. 


Nor from the ground does Romeo's loving song 
Thrill the night air to tell his Juliet 
That though true lovers' paths be hard and long, 
He'll not forget. 

More beautiful is this. Those few green trees, 
Among whose branches vagrant breezes roam, 
Tell of grey towns, green fields and sparkling 

That men call Home, 


Behold ! all ye who want companions fair 
For half a day, a day, perhaps a week, 
Enter and take your choice, for here you find 
The very book (or books) your soul doth seek. 
Love you far shores ? here's tales of distant lands ; 
Or incident ? here's history to your hands. 
Or do you love the men who nobly live ? 
Biographies shall satisfaction give ; 
Fiction, to lose yourself a quiet hour ; 
Training, to give your body grace and power ; 
Poetry, with her poppied embrace ; 
Religion, to give your spirit grace ; 
Oh ! all you men who recreation seek 
Come, choose your boon companion for a week. 


Here is a quiet room ! 
Pause for a little space ; 
And in the deepening gloom 
With hands before thy face, 
Pray for God's grace. 


Let no unholy thought 

Enter thy musing mind ; 

Things that the world hath wrought — 

Unclean — untrue — unkind — 

Leave these behind. 

Pray for the strength of God, 
Strength to obey His plan ; 
Rise from your knees less clod 
Than when your prayer began, 
More of a man. 


Refreshment, rest and cheer for all those men 

Who hapless roam. 

And over all — a touch of sanctity — 

A breath of home. 

Donald Cox. 

A London Divisimi. 



{Reprinted from '^ St. Martin's Messenger," April, 1919.) 


Depose Nelson, remove the column, ungum 
the lions, deduct the fountains, wash out the 
National Gallery, and cease to visualise White- 
hall ; then roll the surface flat (except for 
execrable pave), and, with these trifling altera- 
tions, Trafalgar Square becomes the Grande 
Place of Poperinghe. 

You must also, by-the-bye, rebuild St. Martin's, 
and put a shell-hole through its tower, and a 
clock that declares for years on end that it is 
always half-past five, thus reminding us of 
human fallibility in high quarters. 

The real similarity between the two places 
is, however, more readily realisable, for Poper- 
inghe Square was for four years to the B.E.F. 
what Trafalgar Square is to London — a big 



place through which well-nigh every man must 
pass on his pilgrimage ; an open place wherein 
he takes his first or last or intermediate breather 
before getting to business ; near enough to the 
scene of work to warrant and to provoke a 
pause ; remote enough to make the pause a 
pleasure reasonably immune from accident. 

Thus it comes that I, who was for the most 
of that time vicar of the Poperinghe St. Martin's 
(or rather of the dissenting chapel adjacent), 
find myself writing for the real aS'^. Martins 

Talbot House (so called after Gilbert Talbot, 
who died at Hooge) was set up in Poperinghe 
in December, 1915. It had been the large 
house of a wealthy — need I say ? — brewer, to 
whom we have now handed it back more or 
less intact. It became a happy, homely house- 
hold of faith — a kind of Emmaus Inn, whence 
drooping spirits, revived by processes natural 
and supernatural, went back to face whatever 
might befall the bodies that contained them. 

Come along in and have a look round. 

Don't dally with the doormat ; it is accus- 
tomed to neglect. 

Here is the entrance hall. On the left hand 
its walls are covered with maps, not of the 
war, but of Blighty. See how the London we 


love, without knowing it, is worn away by the 
faithful fingers of your fellow- citizens. Here 
is another, of Canada this time, and another 
of Australia, with a knot of students in slouch 
hats. Here, beyond, is a Madonna, painted 
on latrine canvas by a gunner artist. Beyond, 
a rendezvous board, where you put your en- 
velope which serves as a visiting-card, and 
hope some other hero from Prangley-on-the- 
Marsh will find it there and make an assignation 

On the right there is a notice-board, which 
is different in its outlook on life to the one 
outside your orderly-room. Beyond, a stair- 
case, and beyond that a gorgeous, framed 
artist's proof of Wyllie's " Salient." Looking 
straight through the hall you catch a glimpse 
of a well-kept garden, where men bask, as in 
St. James's Park, and a snug concert hall in a 
hop-store lies out beyond. But the hall has 
other doors. Here is a shop, which has a 
** merry Christmas" atmosphere all the year 
round, and a music-room beyond it, with an 
irresistible old piano, not likely to be come by 
honestly ! 

Now upstairs ! Quite homey this ! Carpets, 
flowers, and pictures — not patriotic prints, 
either. Lord ! what a library ! These people, 



obviously, think we Ve got minds worth feeding, 
as well as bodies and souls. Four thousand 
books, and most of them presented by old 
Talbotousians. Who were they? Look at 
the photographs round the walls. 

Writing-rooms, games-rooms, and, upstairs 
again, billiards! English billiards, too — not 
that foreign cannon-ball game. Who expected 
to find English tables so near the line as this ? 
Over there lie two lecture-rooms, with a large 
class on housing reform and a smaller one on 
French — one taken by an R.E. captain, the 
other by an intelligence sergeant. 

Excelsior ! once again ! A companion-ladder 
this time, leading to a loft. Not likely to be 
furnished ? Isn't it, though ? Here's a chapel, 
full not only of exquisite simple majesty, but 
of an atmosphere like nothing else we have 
ever experienced in France. There's a young 
Devon major (with an M.C. and bar) playing 
the organ, and a few kneeling figures. Daily 
evensong is not yet, but the chapel of St. Martin 
"in the Field" is, like its prototype, never 
without its worshippers. 

Hence, during the whole three years, some 
20,000 men communicants have gone not empty 
away; and at Easter He has here been seen by 
" above five hundred brethren at once, of whom 


the greater part remain unto the present, but 
some are fallen asleep." 

* «3«- * * * 

What, then, is to happen to the fellowship 
of Talbot House ? It is plainly too great to 
lose. Its lovers have a dream of finding some 
house — say in Duncannon Street — a difficult 
task ; and the rent thereof, a task not less 
difficult ; of hoisting the old sign-board there 
and taking the consequences. 

The one great fault I find, as a parson, with 
London is that there aren't nearly enough 
public-houses in the place. There are places 
so-called, no doubt, but they are tied to one 
tradition as well as to one brewery. The inn- 
keepers are all too humble to approach you or 
too proud to be approached. Where is the 
bustling Boniface of literature? He is be- 
dimmed by a guinea-pig directorate ; he is 
dehumanised by the shadow of shares-cum- 

Our fancy leads us to a cosy house with a 
good A. B.C. downstairs, and, upstairs, lecture- 
rooms, library, games-rooms, and " grousing "- 
rooms, together with a London Territorial 
Lethe chamber, where warlike reminiscences 
may merge wholly into imaginative art — in 
short, a junior Cavendish Club, though not 


quite so serious. Its membership (at 10s. 
shall we say ?) would be the 4,000 already on 
the Communicants' Roll of the old House 
(of whom some 500 are in London), reinforced 
from the Civil Service and Territorial world — 
a class who, among the faithless, were surpris- 
ingly faithful to Mother Church, in inverse 
ratio, perhaps, to the care she has bestowed 
upon them. 

An inn without beds is like a song without 
a chorus, therefore we must have a hostel in 
our hostelry; for in London men are even 
more homeless than they were in Flanders. 
The only financial detail yet decided upon is 
that, when the water-rate question becomes 
acute, we are going to draw water in a dixie 
from the fountains in the Square. 

You see, we are practical prophets, and the 
smallest detail is thus completely envisaged. 

All this is not yet. First, there is a sentence 
of six months' hard labour to run ; '* shades 
of the prison-house begin to close" about 
Talbot House and its dramatis personce — in 
other words, the Service Candidates' School, 
now opening in Knutsford Prison, is too great 
a harvest to admit other sowing yet. Secondly, 
there is the book on Talbot House to emerge, 
and its sale will be a wise barometer to tap. 


Meanwhile, will St. Martin cover the beggar 
with its ample cloak, and seek God's will 
concerning Talbot House in town ? 

*  *   

Since this article appeared in the spring, the 
idea of reopening the old house in London has 
gone far forward ; and in January, 1920, with 
this purpose in view, Pettifer and I report 
(with unexpired portion of rations) to O.C, 
St. Martin's in the Fields. After that, we 
begin to begin, which is all man ever does. 
No doubt there are lions in the way less 
benignant than Landseer's ; yet it is heartening 
to remember that lions do not bar blind alleys. 
So far no great patron has made us free of his 
cheque-book, but St. Martin's has promised to 
stand our godfather. One pitch already has 
been both found and lost. Supported as the 
house was by a bank and a cable company, 
this double temptation to high crime is perhaps 
well avoided. Other sites are in prospect^ and 
it is at least plain that there is room enough 
for the experiment we contemplate London 
is too full of stinging-nettles for a dock-leaf to 
spend time arguing its right to live. 

P. B. C. 



It is plainly impossible to print here the 
whole current address-book of some 3,500 
Talbotousians. The most we can ask the 
publishers to do is to give space for the list 
of those on the roll whose Christmas cards 
have been returned undelivered. It is as 
follows : 

Captain A. D. Aldred, R.E., Scaft worth. Yorks. 
Corporal F. Barnes, 2a, Cross Street, Islington, N. 
Lieutenant A. H. Borger, 54, Russell Street, Manchester. 
Lieutenant F. H. Bourton, 1, Park View, Cheltenham. 
Captain Frank Bramwell, 11th Garrison Oxford and 

Lieutenant Bromley, Bentley Rectory, F'amham. 
Private W. Brown, 58813, 71st Field Ambulance, 

Lingfield, Surrey. 
Lieutenant T. W. Burgee, 19th Cheshires (Labour 

Company), B.E.F. 
Pioneer H. S. Carfeu, 167402, The Cottage, Chorley, 

Gunner W. Cassee, 154 N. Battery, Stevenage, St. Albans, 




Lieutenant W. J. Charsley, l/6th West Yorks, 3, Pem- 
berley Crescent, Bedford. 

Lieutenant H. E. Crossley, K.L.R., 64, Arnold Avenue, 

Private G. F. Crowson, A.O.C., 39th Division. 

Private P. Deverill, 194774, 70th Company, H.S.P., 
38th Division. 

Lieutenant Dryman, 13,Charlemen Crescent, Edinburgh. 

Second Lieutenant T. G. Dunkery, 2/6th Battalion Man- 

Sapper Forster, R.E. Signals. 

Private Green, Birley Mount Villas, Birley, Canada. 

Corporal A. T. Hardy, 31, West Cliff, W.F.T., Preston, 

Corporal D. R. Johnson, R. 1512, l/17th T. F. Brigade, 

Major C. Jones, R.A.M.C, 4th Stationary Hospital, 

Private G. Jones, 341680, R. A.M.C., 56th Field Ambu- 
lance, B.E.F. 

Second Lieutenant H. Knight, C Company, 12th Bat- 
talion Royal Sussex. 

Lance-Corporal S. H. Law, M.G.C., 12th West Yorks, 

Lieutenant Guy Laly, 7th D.C.L.I. 

Lieutenant T. W. Martin, 1st Queen's Westminster Rifles. 

Captain A. Macready, 3rd Canadian Infantry, Wage- 
wich. Nova Scotia, Canada. 

Second Lieutenant A. W. Metrall, 217 A.T., Coy. R.E. 

Rifleman V. Modder, B Coy. Bombers, 8th Battalion 
Rifle Brigade, 


Private Munn, Oleander, Hulme, Cheshire, also Church 
Farm, Corton, Lowestoft. 

Drummer A. Naysmith, 20th Division Band, 20th D.H.Q. 

Sapper S. R. Oliver, R.E. Signals, 118th Brigade. 

Private H. A. Patience, 35652, 1st Border Regiment. 

Second Lieutenant R. J. Payne, 2nd Hampshires, Alton. 

Second Lieutenant T. Railton, 54, Arey Street, Liver- 

Private A. Randall, R.A.M.C., 45th Field Ambulance. 

Gunner T. Randall, attached 25th Division Trench 

Lieutenant T. G. Reed, 15th Hants, attached 228th Field 
Coy., R.E. 

Second Lieutenant A. Relton, May bank, Brickhurst 
Hill, Essex. 

Lance-Corporal S. J. Richardson, 12th Platoon, D Coy., 
Yeo Street, Chester. 

Lieutenant L. K. Robinson, 5th Yorks and Lanes. 

Private K. L. Ross, 91, Boulevarde, Westmere, Notting- 

Private P. G. Shields, M.G.C., Norfolks. 

Corporal S. Lesinger, 9th Field Ambulance, Marston, 
Doveridge, Derby. 

Private J. C. Stebbing, 22, East Durrants, North Havant, 

Captain H. L. Stokes, Welsh Guards. 

Private A. Summers, King's Warderbury, Hitchin, Herts, 
or c/o Mrs. H. Street, 113, Barkston Gardens, 
EarFs Court, S.W. 

Corporal S. Symans, 10th Signal Coy., R.E., 8, Mutley 
Plain, Plymouth, Devon. 


Captain A. W. Taylor, 5th K.O.Y.L.I., Junior Army 
and Navy Club. 

Captain A. Waters, 3rd Coldstream Guards. 

Sapper S. V. Wright, D Coy., 8th Bedfords (? 4th Bed- 

Corporal McFall, 47 Street, Marks Street, Montreal, 

Sergeant A. D. Kelly, attached 57th Coy., Canadian 
Forestry Corps. 

Sergeant C. N. Mayoss, 9th Canadian Field Ambulance. 

Private A. D. Harvey, 3rd Battalion Toronto Regiment, 

Private J. Arkell, 7th Australian Field Ambulance. 

100744 Private F. C. Beaver, attached 41st Canadian 
Forestry Corps. 

If readers of this book can help by putting 
us in touch with any of these, or with other 
old Talbotousians, the keeper of the Roll is 
Lieutenant E. G. White (287, Milkwood 
Road, Heme Hill, S.E. 24), who answers 
letters with a paralysing promptitude. The 
address of the poor old padre is Service 
Candidates' School, Knutsford, Cheshire ; and 
(after Christmas) c/o St. Martin's-in-the- 
Fields, W.C. 2. 







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